Entrepreneurs and inventors are well known for wishful thinking and what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” or seeing only what confirms their expectations and opinions. It’s easy to understand why. New ideas are seductive and falling in love with them blinds us to their shortcomings—and to our own.
Sometimes this blindness comes from not knowing what we don’t know. That’s almost excusable. It’s hard to blame someone for not knowing the answers when they don’t know the questions. The kind of blindness that’s not excusable is denying the little voice in the back of our heads warning us that something is wrong, and we don’t treat it seriously. We sense problems, but we avoid facing them because negative thoughts dim the joy we get from inventing.
If we aren’t sure exactly who needs our great new product, we nudge that downer to the side. If we aren’t certain about our true costs, we tell ourselves we will deal with them later. If we aren’t sure how we’re going to sell the product, we think we will figure it out when the time comes. You know what? Those little problems never get fixed because we don’t know how to solve them, so we procrastinate, or ignore them and move on. Not facing our fears and reservations is a cowardly and expensive way to think.
Some entrepreneurs are quick to reject other people’s great ideas, yet don’t recognize the gaping holes in their own. Their personal visions spring from deep within so their ideas are easy for them to love. They are more motivated by gain than deterred by fear of failure, so dreams of success can blur their vision.
Their actions are motivated by the fear of never having enough to show for their lives. They also believe if they don’t move quickly to act on their idea someone will beat them to it. That fear spawns an urgency that can spell great success—or great failure.
Other entrepreneurs’ actions are tempered by fearful voices in their heads. We felt a combination of these fears with every product we invented. The uneasiness is omnipresent because each time we get a big idea we have to face a new unknown.
Fortunately, the more we create, the more we should welcome caution as an ally and use it as a guide. We can learn to turn a big idea into a great product by facing denial and arrogance head-on while there was still time to rethink and fix problems or bail on the idea altogether before sinking money into it.