The “What If” Game

One of the things that can trip up execution is speculation about the future.  If you are an entrepreneur, sometimes it’s a very good idea to quell any speculation about the future.  The way you do it is just by saying you don’t know.

That’s generally the truth.

In a lot of cases by definition what you are attempting to do with your company is disruptive and cutting paths where no one really has gone before.  Until you walk the path, you really don’t know.  Albert Wenger has done a series on uncertainty each week for a while now.  I would read it if you don’t understand conditional probability.  Donald Rumsfeld is often made fun of for saying “there are known unknowns”.  Entrepreneurship is like that.

If you look at the history of prognostications by economists and scientists, you will find most of the time they are wrong about things they project in the future.  In the 1970’s, we were going to be out of oil by now.  How many economists and finance professionals can accurately predict the rate of return they will receive in the next year on the assets they manage?

People like to be certain.  It makes them feel secure. Speculating about the future is something we all do.  But, most of the time we don’t have any control over the outcome.  That’s why entrepreneurial companies that stick to their knitting and execute the hell out of their business win.  As the CEO, you need to make sure you create a culture in the company where everyone stays on task and pulls to the one big goal.

The “What if” game just ties you up in knots.  It gets you thinking about things that are not relevant to executing on the business today.  The only time you really want to play the “What If” game is when you are looking at setting macrostrategy.  “What if” gets in the way of day to day processes.  Once the strategy is set, go for it.

Many times in entrepreneurship, there are hoops that you have to jump through to get to the other side.  You have no choice but to go through them.  It’s sort of like taking a standardized test to get into a college.  Instead of looking at hoops as hurdles and speculating about what is on the other side, look at them as a door you have to open and walk through to find opportunity.  You will execute better and faster.  Getting to the other side will make your business better.