Guy Kawasaki recently previewed an autobiographical book by Steve Wozniak, took some sideswipes at innovators, and cited some bad advice to entrepreneurs. Why? I guess it’s fun. Or maybe to get himself higher on the Technorati ranking by provoking posts like this.
First, Guy ridicules market research and focus groups. Granted that these have a lot of problems, particularly when investigating novel ideas and innovative products. Ignoring market research is a great way, however, to make sure that VCs and potential business partners have no interest in your business proposition.
“Trust me, I know what the consumer wants! Research? Who needs research?” There are a small number of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who are able to create interest in their company based solely only on their vision and reputation; the rest of the people have to provide proof up front. This proof doesn’t have to be focus groups: a user-oriented development process like IDEO’s can go a long way to showing value, as can getting your product into Geoffrey Moore’s bowling alley.
Guy cites Woz's advice on how to be a great engineer:
- Don’t waver.
- See things in gray-scale.
- Work alone.
- Trust your instincts.
Great advice if your name is Steve Jobs. Not so great if you are a recent Stanford grad. (“But what about Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin!” you say. There are always exceptions.)
Don’t waver and Trust your instincts—good to a point. Sure, there are times to ignore the nay-sayers and those who want you to sacrifice your vision to their god of Safe Mediocrity. Taking the advice of 10 different advisors can be like having 10 chefs in the kitchen—inspired flavors become a bland mess. Many successful companies, however, have had to instigate one or more changes in their business plan or technology application until they found their groove. The entrepreneur has to be flexible and able to change their plan when necessary. Or be noble and unwavering and go down with their sinking ship.
What can I say about the advice Work alone except that most everyone these days is looking to interdisciplinary collaboration to produce innovations, both in industry and academia. Again, there will always be exceptions, but not every entrepreneur is Wozniak with Apple’s opportunity in their back pocket.
I’m sure that the book is a great read and is inspiring. It’s just that most success stories do not resemble the Apple startup paradigm.