My Proficorn Way (Part 97)

Rethinking Assumptions – 1

One of the reasons companies fail (and I have also gone through my share of failures) is that entrepreneurs do not reset starting assumptions against the market realities.

Entrepreneurs start off with some ideas and assumptions about the market. Once they take the product out into the market, they get feedback – about customers’ expectations and market size. It is at that time that there is a need to think about some course alteration – in case there is a mismatch. Many times, they don’t do that – working under the principle that their efforts will accelerate the market’s response towards their product. That rarely happens. What follows is disappointment.

It is never easy changing one’s assumptions quickly, especially when one has been thinking about them for a long time. But they should be exactly that – just starting assumptions.

Adam Grant is his book “Think Again”:

Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: there’s evidence that being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become.

As I’ve studied the process of rethinking, I’ve found that it often unfolds in a cycle. It starts with intellectual humility—knowing what we don’t know. We should all be able to make a long list of areas where we’re ignorant. Recognizing our shortcomings opens the door to doubt. As we question our current understanding, we become curious about what information we’re missing. That search leads us to new discoveries, which in turn maintain our humility by reinforcing how much we still have to learn. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

I can trace almost every one of my failures to my inability to rethink my starting assumptions and relearn based on market feedback. I did not take an empirical approach and stayed rooted in my original beliefs. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, I clung on to hope – wishing for that one big thing that would change the game. I did not listen to feedback from others – because I thought I was wiser than them. I did not know what I did not know – and it has had bad consequences for me as an entrepreneur.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.