Always Do

I watched a great video some time ago by a fellow who gave a fabulous flipboard presentation on why we should act on global warming, whether its true or not. The argument in a nutshell was that while not acting may have terrible consequences, acting, at worst, will tie up some resources, and at best will save us from a massive catastrophe. So no matter what the facts, we should just act as if global warning was true, because the consequences of not acting are too dire.

This made me think of how to act in an information-constrained environment in general. If, (and when as is practically always the case), we do not have complete visibility on an ecosystem, if we come up with a strategy that has a viable future outcome, we should act on that strategy rather quickly. The thing is, we spend so much time analyzing and pondering, but the value of such activity is substantial only if we have enough information – which we seldom do.

This is emphasized even more these days – and in the near future – as future visibility becomes even more opaque, thanks to the accelerating evolution of various technologies. So instead of paralyzing with analysis, we should act, gather data and act again. Because if we don’t the answer, – as Shervin Pishevar succinctly put it at the Dublin Web Summit –, is already ‘no’.

But if we should act first, won’t this lead to a world of aimlessly fumbling headless chickens? Of course not. Acting first does not mean acting without absolutely no information whatsoever.

Let’s look at global warming again. The case is not that we have absolutely no projections on global warning. The case is that the probabilities of the positive and the negative outcomes are competitive enough not to warrant an immediate commitment of resources. (Altough one could argue this depends a lot on whose projections we talk about, what with the scientific community being pretty much aligned on this one.)

And in this case it is the active strategy that enables us to quickly update and iterate on knowledge, whereas the passive strategy will lead us nowhere, basically just left astray at the mercy of whatever the actual facts are. Facts may be what they are, but the only way to change them to match our needs better is to act.

Therefore, whenever you are presented with a choice with at least more than negligible possibility of a positive future outcome, you should always do.

Then follow up on results, reiterate where necessary and do again.


The Dublin Web Summit 2013 and Startup Culture

What happens when 10 000 of the brightest minds in technology gather together in Dublin? This week saw the latest installment of what has become the largest technology event in Europe, the Web Summit. Or, as it was now rebranded, simply The Summit.

The event gathered hundreds of startups together, pitching concepts, sharing ideas and creating new networks. The atmosphere at the event was simply outstanding, what with thousands of people really excited and engaged by their own passionate projects, as well those of the others’.

What struck me as one of the most interesting aspects of the event was how the entire crowd fell in place together, with practically no differentiation or evaluation of people, whether they were alpha stage startup founders or world-class serial entrepreneurs.

The explanation, I suppose, is pretty simple. The startup culture is about potential. These ten thousand people have realized that although someone may not yet have the big breakthrough in their hands, with enough hard work and enough experiments they are very likely to land one day on something valuable.

As one of the investors I met at the event – who was looking to invest from 50 million upwards – said, you never know what’s going to be the next Pinterest. To this end, even a multi-million dollar investor will meet the blazing-eyed idea cannon on equal grounds.

Another thing that I found interesting about the event was the amount of awesome ideas people were developing. It struck me that pretty much every half sound idea that I have heard somebody talk about is already being done by somebody else. What this means is that no matter how great the idea you get, someone else will be at it already.

To this end, it is superbly important to find an idea that you are truly passionate about. This was repeated again and again by the speakers at the Summit, such as Gentry Underwood of Mailbox, Drew Houston of Dropbox and Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX. Even if you have the best idea in the world, it’s worth nothing without execution. And executing ideas is some of the hardest work in the world. So you’d better love what you’re doing, or you won’t be doing it for very long.

Altogether getting a look at the European startup scene was truly exciting, coupled with the amazing talks, meetings, and, of course, the delightful Irish pubs.

If you have anything to do with the startup scene, I suggest you take a look at what is going down in Dublin at next year’s Summit. And even if you don’t, it might be worthwhile to look at how the next generation is changing the world.