The ‘know all’ fallacy

Some of the most charismatic and persuasive people I have ever met have also been the ones who have been the most convinced that they had it all figured out and knew everything.

Until they didn’t.

I am not suggesting that they all failed. But a good number of them did. Because they thought they ‘knew’, ventured ahead without taking stock of what was going on around them – and ultimately hit a concrete wall.

Besides the pain of that particular experience, the most painful thing was that it could most likely have been avoided by adopting a very different approach.

A learning approach, if you will.

When you adapt a learning approach you are more humble.

You’re able to take more signals in.

You are more aware that you’re not directing the world, the world is directing your opportunities, and you adapt.

Adaption is key here. The world changes and you need to do that too in order to be forward looking.

‘Knowing it all’ is inherently backward looking. And not very useful when things fundamentally change.

When you learn and adapt, you are able to seize new opportunities and with that the odds of success increases.

Which again makes it pretty stupid to insist on being the one ‘knowing it all’, don’t you think?

(Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash)

An age perspective

“You’re just too old!”

I hear it thrown around every once in a while. Not specifically at me but more as a general shoutout to voice dissatisfaction that someone simply just not ‘get it’.

But does age really have anything to do with it?

Of course not.

In fact I think quite the opposite is at play;

Using the age argument is like arguing “This time is different” about why something that was a bust in the past will be a success now or “We have the best tech” as a reason for why you’re going to win whenever you enter the market:

High risk arguments with little validity in data.

So if the “You’re too old” argument is a flawed one in itself, what can we use the difference in age for in an extended startup team?

Well, for one youth can be put to superb use – if applied with clear thought – towards something that other people might not think is possible doing. Because the big advantage to a lack of experience is that you don’t know what you’re entering into, and thus you’re more open to risk.

Just think at the warm stove the first time you touched it, because you didn’t really believe that it was too hot. You only did that once, right? And got the hard earned experience.

Youth also typically have an abundance of energy of the sort that comes with eagerness to get out in the world and do something and – for most – a basic lack of other substantial obligations (family, kids, mortgages etc).

So what does age bring to the table that could be fruitful to the young ones?

First of all experience. Not of the kind that stops great ideas in their tracks but the kind that helps the young guns avoid the most obvious pitfalls, so they can stear clear and get a cleaner path towards ultimate success. A kind of a mentor that gently guides without taking over control in any sort of way.

Second, a shoulder to cry on. Now, I do not necessarily mean that literally, although if that’s what’s needed, so be it. No, I mean it more in the sense of someone to talk to and seek support at when the going gets rough, nothing works out, the roof is falling in and you’re just generally feeling like an utter failure.

Because that’s exactly what you need at that point; someone you can went to – and be heard, respected and understood by someone who has most likely been there her-/himself.

So think of these things the next time you feel the urge to claim that people who don’t get you are just “Too old”.

(Photo by Paolo Bendandion Unsplash)

Time is (also) an investment

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting a mentee of mine, who is enrolled in DTUs board education.

The topic of our conversation?

“How do I qualify myself to go on boards of startups?”

The question is a good one. Because you need to bring something to the table in order to be relevant. Especially with the diverse needs and ever changing nature of a startup.

But then he followed up with an admission:

“I am not an investor.”

Wrong!

He is an investor. His capital? Experience, know-how – and time.

We often have a tendency to see money as the only type of investment. But I would argue that in an environment rich on capital at close to zero interest, there may be other types of investment that is worth just as much – sometimes perhaps even more.

Experience, know-how – and time.

After all, many of those who are offering their service to be on boards to help startups are people with years, perhaps even decades, of relevant experience. And depending on the need of the specific startup, they will be in a position to help the founders leapfrog their competition by getting sound advice and concrete action.

Because action is the only real differentiator. And this is where the investment of time comes into play. While giving advice may be good in itself, what makes the real difference is turning up your sleeves and get busy working alongside the team.

The right board members with the relevant experience can and should do this. And when they do they will be more than an investor;

They will have the potential to become an invaluable contributor.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Circle kind of complete

One of the things, others can never take away from you is your past experience(s).

They are completely yours. Yours to cherish. Yours to curse. Yours to learn from. Yours to channel into something new.

I have often wondered why things happen. Why do you meet the people, you do? Why do you get the job offers you do? Why do you end up with the career, you do? Is it all part of a plan or does it just happen.

I am mostly in the latter camp. There is no connection between what I imagined myself doing 25 years ago and what I ended up doing and the places I went to work.

Until now.

Because as I am working hard to build a strong set of foundations for our new medtech startup, some of my past experiences are coming back into play. Experiences I didn’t know what I could use for back then, but where it has become blatantly obvious, how I can bring them to bear now.

I am not a big believer in anything except what I can see, hear, feel, taste and smell. But to the extend there is something more out there, I am enclined to say that right about now it is starting to dawn on me, why I did the things I did during my career;

Why I spent time working for the Danish Diabetes Foundation as my very first job fresh out of journalism school.

Why I spent time doing licensing and R&D deals for Microsoft Business Solutions.

Why I spent time in business management at Microsoft.

Why I spent a lot of time doing recruiting and getting both the team, roles and culture right at Berlingske Digital.

And so on. And so on.

The only thing I knew 25 years back – and before – was that one day I wanted to try to create something new that could benefit a lot of people.

Fast forward to today, and I am trying to follow up on that passion using the wealth of experiences, I gained over the years. I wouldn’t say the circle is being completed, but it sort of feels like that.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

5 learnings from HelloFresh

Recently I made a commitment to try different products and services out in order to try and get a better understanding of what it is the best consumer-focused digital companies do that make them so successful.

My starting point was HelloFresh which just recently launched in Denmark.

Monday I got my first shipment from HelloFresh; 3 meals for the week priced at ~130 DKK per meal for 4 people. And these are my first 3 learnings from HelloFresh:

(1) It’s fresh ingredients. I know the point is banal but it needs to be made because it’s important – especially with such a brand name.

(2) HelloFresh operates with a “Zero Waste” promise, and it is easy to see why; everything is sorted for the various means in neat recyclable paper bags, and the measurements of ingredients are exactly what’s needed to cook the meal – no more, no less. When you’re done there’s nothing left – food nor packaging – and thus the promise is kept. Check.

(3) Besides being totally measured most things are clearly branded “HelloFresh” signalling that someone has gone the extra mile in execution of ensuring that things are what they are promised to be and in the quantities needed. It gives a nice touch of care and attention to detail and ensures that both brand and the brand promise is present from start to finish.

(4) With the food NOT being pre-prepped you still get to enjoy the process of cooking even if it’s super easy. It’s quite different from something you just need to heat, and I think being able to add that little extra touch and having some sort of control is super important. Convenience goes a long way but only such a long way. You’re part of the product and process, and in that way it gets under your skin and helps build preference. Pretty clever.

(5) Even though the introduction offer is 30 % of normal price, at 130DKK per meal there is more than enough tangible value in the kit in order to make it attractive. I mean, try to go to the super market and buy groceries for a 4 person meal in Denmark for 130 DKK (or even 170 DKK) with EVERYTHING (except salt, pepper and oil, but you get my point), and you will often come up short. The point: Even if the individual recipe fails or something goes wrong, the value of the offering compared to the alternatives are still there making the offer trending towards a no-brainer to at least try out.

These are just the first few thoughts. I fully realize that it sounds like a glowing endorsement, and maybe it also is. I am just positively surprised by the sheer completeness of the offering in both product, messaging, packaging and everything.

There seems to be no stones left unturned here. Which I guess is the truly inspiring part.

(Photo: Private)

First school experience

This week I joined the Y Combinator Startup School programme. The first lessons have been completed, and yesterday evening we had our first group session with other early stage startup-projects. And what fun it was.

It is a truly great programme that the Startup School has created. The curriculum is pretty ambitious and advanced, and the speakers give you confidence that they know what this is about, and that if you follow their lead and let yourself inspire, you will move towards a really good place (if you put in the necessary work yourself, of course).

The group session is also great. Because it gives you two things that you shouldn’t underestimate: It gives you somebody to be accountable too; i.e. what have you done the last week, what are you doing the next, how are your metrics etc. And it gives you the opportunity to practice pitching your story and see if people get it and choose your product to want to join, if they had to pick just one.

From that angle, first session went really well; all the others chose the project, I am participating with. So naturally, I am quite pumped.

The greatest learning opportunity

There is no way around it: The greatest learning opportunity is when things don’t go according to plan. When you envisioned X and Y or Z happens, and you have very little idea about why that is.

When that happens – and it will happen – it is an open invitation to learn. It is an invitation to go back, investigate and walk through everything you have done in order to try and find the spot(s), where you missed something important.

It is by no means certain that you will be able to find it at the first time of asking. But if you adapt an experimental approach and try to adjust here and there in a controlled way, chances are that you will finally understand what happened, and what you could have done and should be doing forward to make it right. And voilá; you will actually have learned something.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Lead by experience

Yesterday, the company I chose to deliver fiber to my home made their best effort to loose me as a customer. Due to unfortunate circumstances I narrowly missed a visit by a technician, and when I called them to figure out what went wrong, the customer support was rude and hung up on me.

Companies behaving that way may have a good or even great product. But they have a shitty customer experience. And in a day and age where basically everybody can do anything, the true differentiator between winning and losing as a business with the customer is precisely what happened to me: A shitty customer experience.

Whether you are in a corporate or getting your own startup off the ground you should aim to lead by experience; be the most open, accommodating, empathetic and what have you. Because even if I as a customer come to you with a problem, I will remember you cared – and I will our relationship an extra shot.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)