In the first part of this blog, we discussed how procrastination could be an enabler of creativity and how being the first mover in a particular market might not actually help you ‘get ahead’. Part 2 debunks three further myths relating to entrepreneurship.

For easy access to Part 1 of this blog, click here!

3. Generate fewer ideas and spend time developing them

What did Thomas Edison invent? The light bulb. What theory did Albert Einstein posit? The theory of relativity. What plays did Shakespeare write? Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice…(thinking hard)…and King Lear. Upon demand, most middle school students can answer these questions without racking their brains. But are the answers above complete?

Not really. As humans, we have a tendency to emphasize our successes and hide our failures. When you write your CV, do you put down the jobs that you didn’t get, the scholarships that you weren’t awarded, or the projects that you couldn’t complete? Unless you’re Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer, the answer would be “no”. In the same light, when we learn about individuals who have shaped the world as we know it, we only remember the master strokes.

Shakespeare produced 154 sonnets and 37 plays. Einstein wrote nearly 250 scientific papers. Edison had 1,093 patents. We assume that there is a tradeoff between quantity and quality, that the very best of our work is a result of putting our eggs in one, or a few baskets. This common assumption does not hold true, at least when it comes to generating original ideas.

Dean Keith Simonton, a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, notes, “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea [are] a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.” The next time you hold a strategy session with your team, remember to generate as many ideas as possible. A lot of them are likely to be rubbish, but you’ll have time to separate the wheat from the chaff through further discussion & experimentation.

4. Always put your best foot forward

The day has finally come. You’ve incorporated a company, recruited a loyal team, bootstrapped using your piggybank, and refined and tested your product for over a year. Working out of your basement, it’s been a long time since you’ve worn a suit. You can feel a drop of sweat trickle down your lower back as you face a boardroom of venture capitalists. It can be tempting in such a situation to only pitch the up-sides of your start-up. After all, the people you’re talking to weren’t born yesterday, they’ve lost a lot of money on bad bets, and they’re looking for a reason to say “NO”. Instead of trying to make them say “YES”, why not help them out a little? Identify what your audience wants and give it to them.

Rufus Griscom, founder of an online magazine & blog “Babble”, pitched to venture capitalists in 2009 with five reasons not to invest in his enterprise. That year he brought in 3.3 million USD in funding. By telling already skeptical investors why they shouldn’t invest his company, he disarmed them, built trust and displayed his competence. When we’re on the receiving end of a sales pitch, we’re naturally skeptical as the story being told is most often one-sided.

When pitching to investors, don’t forget to put your worst foot forward.

5. Entrepreneurs are fervent risk-takers

The very definition of entrepreneur, as coined by economist Richard Cantillon, is “bearer of risk”. It is undoubtedly true that entrepreneurship involves bearing some measure of risk. Are leaders & original thinkers unbridled risk-takers?

Not necessarily. After T.S. Eliot published “The Waste Land”, he retained his London bank job for a further 3 years. John Legend continued working as a management consultant after releasing his first album in 2000. Abraham Lincoln pondered whether he should sign the Emancipation Proclamation for six months, fearing that his actions may prolong the civil war. A more relevant example is that the founders of Warby Parker retained their day jobs during the initial stages of the company.

Yes, it is important to take risks. Strike that. It’s important to take calculated risks. Risk is like an untamed beast; you’ve got to learn how to control it. Don’t carelessly embrace it; else you’ll get bitten.

These are the 5 myths concerning entrepreneurship that Team Kowrk could identify. Are there any more that we’ve missed?

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