How could taking time out to attend a workshop on entrepreneurship help? I don’t have time for that. I have so much to do!
That was the thought / question bouncing around in my head for the weeks leading up to the Startup Week and the OCEAN startup conference in Cincinnati where we had been staying. I had a lot of work to do and I would have to put it on hold to attend this workshop and conference. But I had committed and decided to follow through with attending it.
Earlier in my career, I easily fell prey to the fallacy of working longer and longer hours in an attempt to increase my productivity. Since then I have read plenty of studies to show this is fallacy. My favorite (and highly recommended) book on the topic is Deep Work. Yet in spite of all that evidence, it still seems counterintuitive. So it requires deliberate thought and action on my part to keep a healthy rhythm in my work / life, let alone take out time for a workshop and conference.
Often there is some exceptional circumstance that makes me think this time is different – why I really have to keep pushing hard on this task in front of me. In the present case, I had concluded that to really test a product with an audience of users driving to and from work, it needed to be as easy to use as a car radio with almost as rich of content. As a result, the list of things to develop became quite long. And while I was able to do a bit of pruning, the remaining list was not a quick effort by any measure. So I had a *lot* of work to do.
But I also remember what I learned from one very brief but powerful article titled The MVP is dead. Long live the RAT clarifying what an MVP was really intended for. What is an MVP except to test your riskiest assumption?
The MVP is dead. Long live the RAT.
And therein lies the key. I had made assumptions when I started building my product that I hadn’t yet validated. Could I test some of those assumptions without even building any product?
In fact, I could.
It was my understanding of this principle that led me to focus on identifying and validating my riskiest assumptions. And it was this hard work of clearly identifying my riskiest assumptions that prepared me as I attended a startup workshop to have an open mind and ultimately to make me receptive to the truth I would be faced with.
I had signed up for the workshop and conference mainly for the exposure and networking benefit. But I got so much more. I was reminded of a key truth every business must pay attention to.
You don’t want to fall in love with your solution. You want to fall in love with your customer and their problem.
As the inventor and developer, I had fallen in love with my solution instead of my customers and their problem.
And this principle isn’t even new to me. Rather, hearing it was just a clear, succinct reminder of something I had already known, but in my zeal to build a product, had neglected to take hold of.
Because I went into this workshop with a clear understanding of some of my biggest assumptions, I immediately knew that the pivot required by acknowledging my misdirected love would lead to a very different kind of business than I set out to build – a kind of business I am presently not prepared to build. So I killed my startup business after investing 175 hours of time (with 60% of that invested primarily to learn different technologies – value definitely received).
It is disappointing to put to death something you have invested time and energy in. But by keeping a good rhythm in my work, I was able to pay attention to the riskiest assumptions. And by getting clarity on the riskiest assumptions, I was able to nix my business idea before a ton of money and time was poured into it.
The ultimate outcome when such a decision is so clear is peace of mind. I do not have to second guess myself and can move confidently on to the next thing knowing I have made the right decision and have kept my losses to an absolute minimum.