If You Build It … Don’t Count on Anyone Coming
Entrepreneurs need to learn to hedge their bets.
Beware the “‘Field of Dreams’ Fallacy”: If you build it, they probably won’t know it’s there, and even if they do, they won’t necessarily care.
In the movie “Field of Dreams,” the character Ray Kinsella hears a voice out of the cornfield that whispers, “If you build it, he will come.” Kinsella builds a baseball field and players and fans eventually show up. This captures the impulse that stirs dreamers to become entrepreneurs – and also often destroys them. This is the impulse that leads us to build something before people believe in it, then demonstrate that it works and meets a need.
How one equips oneself to take on such a challenge often makes all the difference. Malcolm Gladwell uses a study by the French scholars Villette and Vuillermot to support his thesis that successful entrepreneurs cover themselves when they make big bets. When it comes to fields, these successful entrepreneurs make sure to play on ground tilted in their favor, or at least not against them, and they bring a back-up plan. This is not the same as playing it safe by avoiding big opportunities. In fact, it is quite the opposite: According to Gladwell, successful entrepreneurs make big bets, but they set themselves up to have a strong shot at winning them.
It would be a mistake to conclude from this that resourcefulness – the ability to make something out of what little lies at hand – is anything but essential for would-be innovators and entrepreneurs. In a previous post I cited Saras Sarasvathy’s research demonstrating how pivotal such resourcefulness is. Still, as Gladwell suggests, in most cases resourcefulness is only part of what is necessary. With few exceptions, potential innovators must line up at least three other components, if refining their solutions and taking them to market is to be anything more than shooting the moon.
Senior Consultant Alejandro Crawford on “Developing Entrepreneurial Students for the 21st Century Economy” – what it means for students to create solutions to emerging problems, instead of just applying formulas derived for yesterday’s world. Crawford’s remarks were delivered as part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneu