Making decisions is what we do for a living.
How well we do it, how effectively we step ahead of the market, and how dynamically we inspire others to embrace the resulting changes is the mark of our success.
If you map out your days across your career, it breaks down to a cycle of strategic decisions, tactical executions, market feedback–then repeat, ad infinitum.
Fred Wilson succinctly articulates that decisions drive change and change engenders more data that initiates more understanding and ultimately kicks the process forward.
Jeff Bezos’s truly profound treatise touches on the role of that data in how management works at Amazon.
Words to the wise from people truly in the know.
My career in the operational trenches of startups corroborates this and can be summed up as an endless array of ‘what should we do’ meetings and decision-focused retreats.
Locked with the team in rooms, taking all the data we have, all the anecdotes we’ve heard, mapping it out–then making a decision and moving forward. I can remember literally dozens of these, especially the most gut-wrenching decisions to both good and bad end results.
What is invariably true is:
–The quality of data gets significantly better as the tools for gathering it are built more and more into the process. We have more and profound insights than every before.
– Yet the percent of data useful to our strategic decision making has remained the same over time. The quality of the data has not impacted its use in decision making proportionally.
Here’s the rub.
Operational and market data invariably tells you that change and reevaluation are needed much more that it indicates what to to do. It’s an alarm to pay attention more than anything else.
It is true that the less critical the action, the more data you have to guide you. The more directional and strategic the change, the more the data indicates issues to fix and the less it outlines what to do.
This is simply as it is.
The brilliance, as an example, of growth hacking as a tactic and its failure to function as a strategic platform stems precisely from this. The confuscation of data and mistaken process as being the end game. You don’t a/b test change at a strategic level.
Our success as entrepreneurs and leaders of this ongoing process of evaluation and change is invariably tied to the tangibility of our vision, how that drives momentum and defines the messages we champion.
This is what propels us to cross the never-ending market chasms to get stuff done when everything is just so impossibly hard. Our belief in trusting our gut. Our ability to inspire and direct while still being flexible is what it is all about.
I wonder often where experience plays into this. What does it really mean in an environment where everything including the market and the skills to capitalize on it are changing so rapidly all the time.
It’s actually challenging to quantify experience in this process as it is not simply exposure. Or putting in your time. Or working off a large win. And certainly not the been-there-done-that composure of someone who thinks that one blueprint suits all.
Experience to me is the poise of being comfortable in that gray zone, bouncing off the ropes time after time under an onslaught of market and organizational blows.
The muscle memory we develop after endless cycles of this process. Learning from failure certainly but tempered by knowing how to win by keeping going. We have loads of tips and tricks but it’s composure and leadership that we can bring to the process that sets it apart with true experience that helps shape a different future.
This cycle never stops and leaders rise over time with experience by mastering this, being comfortable and poised in that zone of uncertainty.
When I meet new entrepreneurs or evaluate a project or a leadership team to join—this is what I look for.
Their depth of visceral shared beliefs. Their articulation of a vision that makes me feel their narrative under my skin. Their resiliency to throw themselves into this decision-making process, time after time. The humility to know what they don’t know and the propensity to embrace change
Making decisions is simply what we do as entrepreneurs.
In enterprise mobility, group connectivity, wellness or the food biz it is common ground. And at all levels, from the exec team down to the individuals that sell, market, write and tell stories across the multiplicity of channels.
That’s just what it is.
In building a company, there are many good days and way too many really challenging ones. What we can count on that change is a constant, that complacency is death and that full assurance in decision making will simply never be. It will always be hard.
This is the pulse of it all and the gist of what we do.