Common sense and superstition pervade our society. Eat carrots and your eyesight will improve. Cutting your nails at night is bad luck. If you’re pooped on by a bird, you’ll make a killing at the racecourse. Entrepreneurship is no different. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll be subjected to a barrage of ‘help’ that may be inaccurate, but delivered in good faith by your friends, family and colleagues. We’ve taken the time to examine five common misconceptions relating to entrepreneurship.

1. Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination is considered a cardinal sin in entrepreneurship. If you’re going to do something, you’d better do it today before somebody else beats you to it. As Charles Dickens famously wrote, “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time”.

This proposition doesn’t necessarily always hold true. Although procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, it can be an enabler of creativity. You may be surprised to learn that Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t draft his famous “I have a dream” speech well in advance of its delivery on August 28th, 1963. A 1993 interview with his wife, Coretta Scott King, revealed that he had not completed the closing speech for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom till the wee hours of the morning, despite the event having been announced to the press two months earlier. More surprisingly, the powerful “I have a dream” motto was improvised by King on the day itself. Had he written his speech well in advance, he would neither have the additional time to generate novel ideas the night before nor the ability to depart from his rigid script and utter the four words that underwrote the American civil rights movement.

The next time your boss pushes you to complete a creative task, tell the story of Martin Luther King Jr., and also chuck in the phrase “strategic procrastination” somewhere. Remember to improvise!

2. The Early Bird Gets The Worm

As an entrepreneur, there’s always the temptation to be the first to launch a new product, be the first to market it, and be the first to scale it. This can be termed as the ‘first-mover advantage’. Why do we think this way? We assume that we’ll be one step ahead on the learning curve, acquire limited yet critical factors of production, and out-compete later arrivals in the market. If you’re minded to adopt this approach, think again.

Research by marketing experts Peter N. Golder & Gerard J. Tellis reveals that later entrants are six times less likely to fail than first movers in a particular market. The possible normative explanation for this statistic is that later entrants have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and craft a superior product from the sidelines. Peter Thiel writes in Zero to One, “being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you”.

We’re not suggesting that you should watch Netflix until someone else gets something done. The key takeaway here is that rushing to launch your product without understanding the market, gauging consumer taste, and learning from your competitors could be a risky mistake.

To read about the remaining three myths, click here!

 

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