Critical Thinking, hard yet necessary

There were a couple of lists floating around, rules for startups. On the whole, the lists weren’t bad, but like all lists, they can tend to fall short. There isn’t a formula to have a successful startup, if only it were that easy.

Enjoy = it makes the most sense

For example, point #1: Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. This makes sense. Startups are like children, they need dedication, love, patience, and hard work. If the startup is not something the individuals are extremely dedicated to, the end result will not be enough to compete with companies putting their all behind their product or service, leading to point #2: If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.

Why do most startups fail? Same reason why many commercial bloggers do not have the success they would like. Unrealistic expectations. Everyone isn’t meant to have their own business just like everyone isn’t mean to be a doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc. A startling number of people enter into the commercial arena with zero business experience, and without the inclination to take some classes (gain some knowledge) to help them excel.

To complete my degrees I had to finish a series of classes called Critical Thinking. I hated those classes (I cannot put into words how much I hated those classes). I understood the point of them but I hated them. The classes forced students to consider all the issues in a situation and prompted the student to be creative in their thought process.

A lot of students failed those classes.

Seriously, they were tough. We received questions like this:

Lab technician Jim collects a culture from a patient on which the doctor previously operated. Jim carefully collects pus from a wound on the leg of the patient using a toothpick and then, seeing another wound on the face of the patient, washes the face wound with iodine and, using the same toothpick, collects serum from that wound. Jim drops the toothpick into a tube of nutrient broth, puts the name of the doctor on the broth culture tube, and takes it to the lab on the way home from work. List the mistakes Jim made.

Or:

Two airports A and B are 400 miles apart, and B is due east of airport A. A plane flew from A to B in 2 hours and then returned to airport A in 2 1/2 hours. If the wind blew from due west with a constant velocity during the entire trip, find the speed of the the plane in still air and the speed of the wind.

And let’s not forget:

Although 95% of the crust of the Earth is composed of either igneous or metamorphic rock, 75% of the exposed surface of the continental crust is sedimentary rock. This is because

a. erosion of surface soil and rocks has produced a veneer of sediments over most of the Earth, and lithification of these sediments has produced sedimentary rock strata
b. the temperature of the Earth increases downward, leading to the creation of vast amounts of igneous and metamorphic rocks
c. oceanic crust, which covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface, is largely composed of igneous rocks, such as basalt, which forms at oceanic ridges
d. constitute such a small percentage of the surface of the Earth that they contribute much less material to the surface than do physical and chemical precipitation of sediment

Each class the questions were harder but the point was to make the student “think” about the situation and not pick what might appear to be the obvious answer, to avoid skipping steps in the thought process and to do the work necessary to achieve the right answer (because there is only one right answer). Eventually the questions moved to business related situations which again, had one optimal answer. Knowing the answer (exit plan) doesn’t mean the pieces can be put together to form the question (product or service that will gain the exit expectation).

This is why people who have an exit strategy in their mind tend to fail before they get the company strong enough to be considered a realistic option for sale. The person has the end goal (exit) on their mind and most likely will do everything possible to quickly achieve that goal, working backwards to form the product or service.

Making the product or service meet their exit plans instead focusing on making their product or service a strong competitor in the market, justifying their exit projection.