It’s been said that in warfare, the greatest enemy of victory is wishful thinking. The same can easily be said for today’s entrepreneur.
In its most basic definition, “wishful thinking” is believing something because of a desire that it be true. It’s thinking that ignores fact, and instead, relies on a premise for the conclusion to be true. For entrepreneurs, it can be a bias towards a certain solution (Solution A) which leads to the overestimating of the evidence supporting that solution. It can also result in the underestimation of evidence that supports other solutions besides Solution A.
Despite all the hoopla that entrepreneurs need to have passion in their endeavors and exhibit a “never give up” attitude, this type of flawed critical thinking can be deadly. In fact, it’s about the quickest way to run a new venture into the ground and go bust.
Instead, entrepreneurs need to separate well-reasoned critical thinking from passion. They need to have a clear head so that when challenges arise, they can apply unbiased problem solving techniques and be willing to take action and make the appropriate changes–pivoting as we like to say–when the problem has been defined and the cause(s) identified. With wishful thinking, one rarely gets past the stage of recognizing that, in fact, a problem even exists.
Problems–even small ones where a keen eye is needed to recognize–that go unchecked can cause much more damage over a period of time than a larger one that flares up and then dies down. When you combine the inherent difficulty of identifying these small flare-ups with the bias of ignoring (or not searching out) evidence of such due to wishful thinking, a recipe for disaster awaits you.
Here’s the takeaway: Entrepreneurs need to always be cognizant of the negative consequences that can be attached with having a strong passion for their start-up venture. If this passion turns into a strong bias towards a particular solution, this “wishful thinking” can lead to disastrous results.
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group – a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.