Scratching the itch
Never in my whole life did I think I’d do as many Zoom/Skype/Teams calls as I have over the past year.
They’ve generally worked pretty well, though I sometimes find myself fighting an irresistible urge to do other things at the same time (clearing emails, reading finance news, Twitter…) especially on those really long conference calls that can seemingly go on for hours.
In fact, fiddling with devices is a bugbear of mine in general, and I often find that I need to get outside and exercise (or, lately, do some gardening) to clear my head.
I actually don’t think I’ve ever managed any clarity of thought or dreamt up any worthwhile ‘light-bulb’ moments while sitting in front of my laptop, probably because I’m forever distractedly snooping around all the open tabs.
Shocked into action
I had to laugh out loud at the results of a recent UVA study, which placed a small sample of students in a room with a proverbial red button in it and asked them to sit alone and think for a quarter of an hour.
As the results of the test showed, a lot of people really don’t like to be bored and do nothing!
Indeed the study implies that most young men, and many young women, might literally choose to electrocute themselves with at least one painful shock rather than sit still and do nothing for 15 minutes!
One person in the test self-administered a couple of hundred painful shocks, which alone is food for thought, and frankly rather concerning!
The bias to action conundrum
One the one hand, we know that constant tinkering and an endless compulsion to just do something tend not to be useful traits for investors: “Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behaviour” as the sage Buffett put it.
In football, goalkeepers might even improve their odds of saving penalties by remaining in the middle of the goal rather than intuitively diving for one of the corners (‘don’t just do something, stand there!‘).
But it’s different in business…especially small business.
Organisations tend to be loaded with people that believe doing something is better than doing nothing, and when such energy is well directed, this ‘bias to action’ can be a powerful force.
And for entrepreneurs or start-up founders, a willingness to act through iterative processes can be absolutely critical: plan, implement, reflect, review , improve!
5 useful concepts for acting with purpose
Here are 5 concepts that I’ve variously found invaluable as an entrepreneur, garnered from a range of different sources:
(i) Take our free Enneagram assessment: understanding ‘the 9 types’, particularly your personality type and likely behavioural triggers, is truly an eye-opening exercise;
(ii) Get the right people on the bus: even the greatest entrepreneurs with the most visionary of ideas progress far more effectively when they find great people to board their bus, and then help them figure out where to drive it.
A corollary of this is to also get the wrong people off the bus, even if that means taking some tough decisions;
(iii) Develop a rolling plan: just as having a systematic strategy to follow can take the emotion out of investing, planning can also provide a valuable roadmap in business or entrepreneurship.
Of course, in a young enterprise the plan will often need to change course rapidly, but as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov once said, even a bad plan is better than having no plan at all;
(iv) Burst through the two-way doors: Amazon’s stupendous global success has been built upon eschewing endless board meetings and turgid conference calls in favour of acting quickly and purposefully in relation to decisions which are changeable and reversible.
Of course, the major consequential decisions that may be irreversible (‘one-way doors’) demand more careful consideration; and
(v) Panic slowly: being an entrepreneur is likely to entail some days which are frustrating or appear plain overwhelming.
That just goes with the territory.
Abject panic is rarely a useful reaction, however, so remember this useful idiom: ‘Take a breath, and panic slowly!’.
And on that note I’m off to meditate for 15 minutes, if I can just stay away from my i-Phone, and that interesting red button…