Intellectual Arrogance and Innovation Don't Mix

Monday, 01 August 2016 14:03
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To achieve success innovators must persevere despite obstacles and repeated rejections. Also true: success will elude the intellectually arrogant.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends...

Intellectual Arrogance and Innovation Don't Mix (The following account has been disguised to protect identities).

Last week, entrepreneur Ken Black called to chat me up about his predictive online clothes sizing software. He then tried to convince me to refer him to prospective customers so he could sell it to them. Ken described to me how his software will eliminate customer reservations about ordering clothing online and reduce merchandise return costs from having ordered an incorrect size. Very exciting stuff, right? Still, I turned him down. Here's why.

I asked Ken if he had piloted his software with any customers to validate his benefit assertions. He dismissed this question and boasted, "It works great. When they order it, they will love it". I told him that unless he can prove his software's usability and its size prediction accuracy, he's going to continue to struggle (he hasn't landed any customers despite over a year of selling).

My view is based on experience having worked with a team of entrepreneurs who had developed an online shoe size predicting program. MatchMyFoot promised to offer similar benefits as Ken's program, but with footwear. Their venture was unsuccessful because users had difficulty taking pictures of their feet with their smartphones from the various angles necessary for the system to create an accurate virtual 3D model. This resulted in inconsistent shoe size predictions, which defeated the software's purpose. They couldn't easily fix the problem and had to shutter their venture. Based on our experience, Ken piloting his software is not just a's an absolute necessity.

As a result, I declined his request to make introductions in his behalf and wished him good luck.

Entrepreneurs and corporate professionals can become so heavily invested in their innovations that they can lose their ability to think objectively. Even when our ducks are in a row, our persistence is often necessary in order to make consistent progress. On the other hand, intellectual arrogance will almost certainly keep us from achieving the success we desire.

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