We tend to judge our decisions based on the results we get. But is that the right thing to do?
When we start learning to code, it’s usual to follow guided exercises, tutorials, and the like. The boundaries are clear, and we have instant feedback on whether we solved the initial problem or not: either the program works according to spec, or it doesn’t. The factors out of our control are relatively small, and outcomes tightly correlate with our decisions.
So judging our choices based on the results is…we could say…fair enough.
However, things get wicker as we move into the real world and start growing real businesses and products.
We might make the right choices along the way and still don’t find a problem worth solving. We might discover a worthy problem and still not find a suitable solution for it. And even if we do, we can build a whole system that works…and still fails.
Complexity becomes massive, and there are infinitely more elements out of our control than under it.
On the one hand, there is a longer delay to see the results.
It’s one thing to build and launch a product, but it can take a long time to see long-term results like customer adoption or consistent, sustainable revenue. So did we make the wrong choices?
Or simply haven’t we seen the effects of those choices yet?
On the other hand, the driving factors for those results may not be apparent.
They hide far behind a complex causal chain of mechanisms, most of which may not be under our control. Did we fail because we chose the wrong problem? Was it because we shaped the wrong solution? Was it because the messaging we conveyed did not resonate with people? Was it because of the pricing we set out?
Or was it due to other external factors, like a new, unexpected competitor jumping into the scene, a disruptive external event (like COVID), or maybe someone in your team getting off track?
It’s hard to know.
Maybe it was even none of the above. Or, more likely, it was a combination of several factors that led to that result.
Yet, one thing is clear: creating and growing businesses and products is more about failing than about succeeding. Luck and randomness play a critical role.
You can make the right choices and still get bad outcomes. And you can make the wrong choices and still get good results. And, still, it’s frequent to emit a judgment exclusively based on the results.
So how should we judge if we are doing right or wrong then?
Well, we’ll have to save that for another time. But for now, don’t let the results of your past decisions fool you. Judging your choices just by their outcome will lead you to the wrong conclusions.
When that happens, success gets still more random and elusive.
Say it out loud. Is there anything you disagree with? Anything missing that you’d like to add? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts so, please, leave them in the comments.
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