In Innovation, Persistence Isn't Always a Virtue
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." Dale Carnegie
"Whatever the truth is, I don't see how it will help me to set food on the table." Suzanne Collins
I often deal with new business owners, corporate innovators and entrepreneurs. Many of them share a key quality: a fierce and dogged desire to succeed. If they don't quickly achieve their objectives, perhaps they just haven't demonstrated sufficient tenacity. Or, it also possible they will never succeed. So, which of the two is it?
In truth, it can be either, or both. Large corporations usually have effective mechanisms to track and assess program progression prior to and post launch. Entrepreneurs in contrast, can often be guided more by their passion and blind optimism, rather than their having developed and followed a sound business plan, which includes defined success measures and milestones.
I recently worked with an entrepreneur who lamented that a large company wasn't acting (in his opinion) with sufficient urgency in considering his technology offering. I explained to him that large companies are often slow moving and while frustrating, the time lag in itself didn't necessarily signal a lack of interest. He countered that he "has been at this for nearly 20 years", and didn't have patience for "foot-dragging companies".
Upon hearing his comments, I wondered: if he has been pursuing the same objective for 20 years without success, shouldn't he have concluded by now that it was unlikely to happen? Certainly, his technology has been costing him considerable money, both in the patenting process and what he might otherwise have earned by applying himself to another endeavor. The fact that he is sorely lacking in interpersonal skills has likely also significantly hindered his success prospects. At some point, he needs to decide that persistence itself is likely not going to be the difference between his success and failure.
Each entrepreneur should pursue his business venture with passion, but as importantly, with a sound business plan and a clear eye. This should include incorporating success milestones and timing that allow him to decide how he is performing versus plan, and to take corrective action when appropriate.
Being an entrepreneur isn't for the timid. Still, as with any rigorous endeavor worth pursuing, be it running a marathon, seeking an advanced academic degree or starting a new business, persistence alone isn't enough. Success is contingent upon having a well reasoned plan, applying discipline and persistence in executing it, and making tough decisions. And a bit of good luck along the way doesn't hurt either.