I recently finished reading the book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. The book has been highly recommended by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Bill & Melinda Gates and me :). Beyond being a relevant resource for anyone looking to open their minds to new ideas, Grant does a brilliant job illustrating the power of ‘rethinking’ as it pertains to entrepreneurship.
I’ll save you the trouble of reading the book and cut to the chase – he argues that people tend to “think” in one of four ways: like a preacher, a prosecutor, a politician or a scientist. Of these groups, Grant states, scientists have the only profession built on rethinking. Scientists are not only expected to doubt what they know, they’re paid to be curious and update their views based on data.
He references a study conducted in Milan that followed the journey of over one hundred startup founders over four months. The entrepreneurs were split into two groups. While the training was identical for both, the test group was encouraged to view their startup through a ‘scientist’s goggles’. In other words, this scientific group was told to view their business as follows:
- Their strategy is a theory
- Conversations with customers are hypotheses
- Beta products are experiments to test those hypotheses
Using this approach, the scientific group averaged over $9,000 more in revenue at twice the speed of the control group. They also pivoted twice as often.
The big takeaway?
Pivoting is a mindset.
The companies The Point, Odeo and Glitch may mean little to you. However, I’m sure the names Groupon, Twitter and Slack ring a bell. Each of these massively successful companies began as start-ups with founders who were unafraid to pivot (often drastically) when their hypotheses failed.
Being a brilliant scientist requires you to search for the truth. It’s not about success or failure: it’s about proving an idea true or false and making the necessary iterations.
As someone who speaks with a couple dozen founders a month, I believe great leadership requires both clear-sightedness and a strong inclination towards openness and curiosity. Instead of starting with the right answers, begin with the right questions. Think like a scientist.