Monday, September 7, 2009
Eleven Geek Myths about Putting an Idea to Work
The post at this link is written by a geek turned venture capitalist, but I am wondering how much of it is applicable to new theological work? My thoughts regarding "brilliant idea", "money" and "make you rich" are, of course, quite a bit different. Perhaps someday I'll write on what I think "the rich life" really means to me as a Universalist.
A couple notable items:
Myth #4: What you think matters.My real take-away from this myth is that Unitarian Universalists have such an open theology and put the burden on parishioners to figure it all out. It's no wonder they're not getting more traction. Most people don't have the time or inclination to go off on a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" and would prefer to offload that to religious professionals and spiritual leaders, so they can live their lives within the context of direct experience. Until someone who knows UU theology puts it together, it won't catch on like wildfire. In fact the rain and wind of the current environment might just blow it out. UU is still putting flint and steel to the contents of its tinderbox one candle at a time. Its a lovely diversity of candles and does light up the room, but it's not a roaring fire -- not yet.
Reality: It matters not one whit that you and all your buddies think that your idea is the greatest thing since sliced pizza (unless, of course, your buddies are rich enough to be the customer base for your business). What matters is what your customers think. It is natural to assume that if you and your buddies think your idea is cool that millions of other people out there will think it's cool too, and sometimes it works out that way, but usually not. The reason is that if you are smart enough to have a brilliant idea then you (and most likely your buddies) are different from everyone else. I don't mean to sound condescending here, but the sad fact of the matter is that compared to you, most people are pretty dumb (look at how many people vote Republican ;-) and they care about dumb things.* (I just heard about a new clothing store in Pasadena that has lines around the block. A clothing store!) If you cater only to people who care about the things that you care about then your customer base will be pretty small.
I wonder how many people in the world exist in the true market for my theology. There's a huge disparity between folks of different religious backgrounds, ranging from theologies as revealed by prophets (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormon,...), to more formalized theologies brought together by church fathers (Catholicism and the Nicene creed, through a variety of councils), to rational theologies (Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Humanism...) and many other forms of perhaps a less organized nature. And to be fair, each of the aforementioned is much more than the categorizations I described. Ultimately, for the theology I'm proposing to come to success, it needs a very large number of people on board, and a significant handful of influential leaders as well.
Myth #5: Financial models are bogus.
As with myth #2 there is a grain of truth here. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying, prophecy is a lost art. There is no way to know for sure how much money your business is going to make, or how much it will cost to get to market. The reason for doing financial models is to do a reality check and convince yourself that making a return on investment is even a plausible possibility. If you run the numbers and find out that in order to reach break-even you need a customer base that is ten times larger than the currently known market for your product then you should probably rethink things. As Dwight Eisenhower said: plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.
*His condescension noted -- he is blogging for inventor-class thinkers here, but no need to call people "dumb". Perhaps "uncurious" "uninsightful" or "less creative" would be better terms. And the jab at Republicans obviously unnecessary and a simplified view for sure -- I have met many very intelligent Republicans, though I can only assume that the reason they vote as they do is that they start from a different set of assumptions. I have also met both Republicans and Democrats (and people of other political stripes as well) who seemed they might have difficulty thinking their way out of a wet paper bag....
Several of the other myths (6, 8, 9, and 10) make sense from my perspective as well. Of course I don't consider what I'm doing "business" nor do I consider the outcome as a "product."
And this comment by John:
...To the point you were trying to make about who you know...the reciprocal is more accurate; people have to know YOU. Are you a flake who's only thought is getting to that early exit...the one with the golden parachute? Or are you someone with acumen and resolve ready to see it through to profitability? And, by the way, no one will care to know WHO you are if you DON'T have the technical prowess to back it up.
lyrics: "Look out honey, 'cuz I'm using technology!"
From Search and Destroy, by Iggy and the Stooges
colors: crystal clear
mood: tired. spent the whole long weekend rearranging our apartment to make room for baby-care
chant/prayer/mantra: "Shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine, shine." Repeat until baby sleeps (first part of the Seraphims' Lullaby).
agape to all,