I was talking to a colleague recently. We were discussing a particularly knotty business problem. I said, “We need to create more options. There has to be a different approach to problem. What are the different ways we can achieve the same end – ones that are not obvious and that we have not considered?” I told him a story from my past.
When building content portals during IndiaWorld (1995-1999), I did not know which verticals would work – I had a general sense, but wasn’t sure. During those years, I launched 13 properties – samachar, khoj, khel, bawarchi, indialine, dhan, itihaas, manoranjan, and so on. They covered many different verticals. 4 of them worked, 9 did not. I would never have known for sure had I not experimented and tried out the different themes. In a sense, I created “options” – the cost of doing each was low, while the upside of success was very high.
I have seen many leaders box themselves with pre-conceived notions of what will work and what will not. As a result, they constrain themselves at the early stage. This could be because they don’t want to waste resources. More often that not, they are worried about the consequences of the initiative not working. So, they take a defensive approach from the beginning itself.
An entrepreneur needs to do the opposite. Early life is all about experimentation in search for what is now called “product-market fit.” It is about trying a few different approaches to see what will work. Even now, I constantly think of how one can expand the options that are available. These can come through conversations with people outside our domain – people we would typically not speak to and whose worldview is very different from ours. So, keep the mind open to new ideas. It is this continuous search through creating options that creates the new openings and the big opportunities – but you will only know it when you actually do it.
Tomorrow: Part 48