How to avoid getting screwed by bad advisors
Balazs, a talented engineer approached me back in 2007 with an idea he had for outsourcing funding to the crowd, as an alternative to angel investors – 2 years before Kickstarter took the crowdfunding model mainstream.
I didn’t like the idea, because I couldn’t image that I would pitch in $20 together with hundreds or thousands of others to help launch something… I always imagined(!) that when it comes to funding I am more like a VC than a … whatever.
So I did a thorough analysis proving beyond the shadow of the doubt that it’s a logical impossibility (my expression of choice at the time) that this model would EVER work. Not only did I not help Balazs launch the initiative, I persuaded him that he should not do it at all!
What happened in simple but significant terms was that I projected my own limitations onto somebody else’s life and then simply rationalized them: rationalized my limitations!
True story – unbelievable.
Now that we are at the topic of limitations I can throw in here that when Ebay already proved beyond the shadow of the doubt that auctions work for pretty much everything, I still couldn’t believe it and thought that they will surely fail. Why? Probably because I just don’t get auctions.
I have more of such stories but I stop embarrassing myself for now.
So here are a couple of considerations / reflections about advising and using input for decision making in so called “highly uncertain environments” which is another word for life:
1. Be aware: We are what we are not and there is a lot more of what we are not than of what we are (not bad, eh?)! The individual IS limitation. Everybody’s limited! People can express only their limitations. Always – unless they are aware! So when you’re considering feedback or giving feedback, be aware of whom it’s coming from or whom you’re giving it to. Know the guy. Know his patterns! This is more important than what he’s rationalizing. Same thing is true about you! Chances are you don’t know the guy or – be honest! – yourself – so forget about the concept of “your opinion” and keep an open mind.
2. If they ask you for advise about ideas, do not focus on why it won’t happen! You simply don’t know if it’ll happen or not irrespective of identified risks, constrains and perceived realities! Focus on how, in your limited opinion, it may happen! Same if you ask others for ideas: “this may sound stupid, but what do you think it would take to make it work?” So if for instance a guy who can’t draw an Audi logo wants to launch a product design company, don’t shot him off, introduce him to designers!
3. Forget (abstract) mathematical or statistical logic! Seriously! The world works on a different logic – the kind that helps for example the con artist and the victims always find each other. There is a large element of stuff in this logic which from a sterile mathematical point of view will SEEM stupid.
So don’t forget the Stupidity Quotient (SQ)! You must count with it, especially in b2c! Assume that when it comes to anything “mass”, the more stupid something appears to the personality, the more chances it has for success. Think about consumer behavor! Look at twitter! Look at the sharing craze! These are high SQ industries. Quick: did skype emerge when the amount of nonsense conversations globally reached a critical mass, or skype caused a critical mass of non-sense conversations? Did music become free (“illegally” or otherwise) after it became crap (I am aware of exceptions!), or it became crap because the publishers were cut out? The key is always in patterns!