“They are simple tools, and almost all children are adept in their useby the age of ten. Yet presidents and kings will often forget to use them,to their own downfall. The problem lies not in the complexity of thesetools but in the will to use them.”—M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled.
The simplest principles for new venture success are sometimes thehardest to put into practice. Most entrepreneurs and investors willagree that getting the facts about a situation—good, bad, or ugly—is more important than being proved right, and the value of honestlyairing differences far outweighs the discomfort it might cause. Yetmany of these same venture teams operate from within feel good bubbles, where perceptions and conversations are distorted by po-liteness or prejudgment, and where early biases harden into unques-tioned dogma Cognitive biases are as plentiful as they are powerful, so it’s notsurprising that blind spots develop quickly and naturally during the startup journey.
Feel-good conversations are like comfort food for newventure teams, reinforcing early beliefs and feeding optimism andconfidence. When adversity intrudes, as it always does, teams not ac-customed to skillfully confronting reality are ill prepared to respondswiftly and smartly. Passion-trapped founders tend to panic insteadof lead.
This chapter focuses on how to minimize the overly optimisticdistortion of reality that can occur early in the venture formationprocess, avoid getting trapped in the feel-good bubble, cultivate clarityof thought and discussion, and encourage candor and healthy debate,all while maintaining the positive energy and enthusiasm for yourventure. Investing in these outcomes is important, not only as a pre-ventive mechanism, a kind of insurance policy against the risks of unchecked passion, but also as a sound competitive strategy.
For venture teams that are smart and disciplined enough to cultivate it, in-tegrity of communication can provide a differentiating advantage in the typical entrepreneurial marketplace, where barriers to entryare often low and success requires outthinking, outhustling, and out-man aging the competition.
Integrity of communication is a straightforward concept, easy to un-derstand yet hard to master. It means embracing the raw reality ofyour venture, in all its glory and with all its warts. It means that any-thing is discussable, that conversations include relevant data and opin-ion, and that new information is welcomed without regard to whetherit is “good news” or “bad news.” In a high-integrity atmosphere, thereis no such thing as bad news, because every piece of data adds to amore complete picture, a clearer, stronger base from which to decideand act.