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In the 1700’s Edmund Burke said something you’ve heard many times, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” In my opinion, much of the business press exists to exploit the fact that we learn important lessons—and then quickly forget them. Much is known about management, entrepreneurism, innovation, etc. but we somehow forget in our pursuit of the latest meme or in our rush to be busy instead of creating results.
In the 1800’s J.B. Say defined the entrepreneur as “…Shifting economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” Starting in 1939, over seven decades, Peter F. Drucker became the most influential management writer and thinker of all time as he codified the practice of management in over 30 books. And yet, we have an insatiable appetite for relearning what we already know.
In my local Sunday paper two articles caught my eye. One quoted Paul Santinelli of North Bridge Venture Partners. When asked the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make he answered, “…I was always enamored with what we were building…Had I listened to our VP of sales and realized, ‘Hey, the market doesn’t want X, they want Y and are willing to pay for it,’ I might have been able to move faster to a more acceptable solution.” In the other article, Curtis Carlson CEO of SRI, a company well known for sustained innovation, says he, “…Preaches, literally to every SRI employee [that]…each researcher must be able to explain the need s/he is trying to fill, why a new method would be better than what’s already available, and what benefit the new idea would bring to a potential customer.”
So, no matter where or when you learn it the two top lessons for entrepreneurs are:
- Listen to your customers.
- Discover what they need.
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