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6 Limiting Beliefs that are Counter Productive to Lean Startup

Your world view (AKA Mental Models) are so deeply ingrained in your psyche that they limit your openness to possibilities without you even knowing.  It takes concerted effort to develop the self-awareness to become familiar with and re-write such limiting beliefs.  And doing so is paramount to effectively learning and applying Lean Startup.

The reality is that we live in a culture (I can really only speak for the US of A, although these are likely present in other societies as well) that has deeply re-inforced certain social norms that are counter productive to learning lean.  And even though we might intellectually understand that the game of business has changed, our behaviors inadvertently maintain the status quo.  Over the last few years I have seen 6 specific limiting beliefs that cause well meaning lean startup entrepreneurs to self-sabotage.

Here are the six limiting beliefs and some self-reflection questions to help you overcome them!

1. “I already know that!”

The other month I was on the phone with a potential client who was lamenting about their business development efforts.  She had organized a web event to capture people’s contact information so she could build her list, which was successful.  However, she was unsuccessful at converting anyone from that list into a paying client.  When I proposed going back to the drawing table to validate the problem, customer segment, etc. she became defensive.  “I already know that.  I am my target market.  I don’t need to do that research.”  Suffice it to say, we were not a fit to work together.  Unfortunately being in the know, has been reinforced in our culture as an asset.  I can quickly tell when a person is open to lean startup based on how they respond to my questions about their business.  If they have an “I already know that” attitude they are too addicted to being right to make a go of learning lean.  They act like having an answer means that they have the answer.  I believe that they lack the ability to say, “I don’t know” because that is viewed as weakness.  To continually assert, “I already know that” is to dig your own grave in the Lean Startup world, even for the seasoned entrepreneur.  Instead ask yourself, What if my assumptions are wrong?

2. Step 1, Solve a Problem

Solving problems is sexy.  Everyone wants to solve a problem.  And if you solve a particularly big problem, you instantly become a hero; people carry you around on their shoulders singing “for he’s a jolly good fellow” and leave gifts of admiration at your feet.  Ok, so obviously I am exaggerating but our mental pictures might as well be something like that.  We are so obsessed with solving problems we think that’s where our entrepreneurial journeys start.  But in reality, step 1 is documenting your assumptions.  Step 2 is validating the problem.  And step 3, should you have indeed validated that the problem you think needs solving actually has a customer base that agrees with you, solve a problem.  Instead ask yourself, What proof do I have that other people experienced and want to solve this problem too?

3. Does it Appeal to Everyone?

You know the saying, “can’t be everything to everyone”?  It’s cheesy I know, but it’s a necessary reminder. It might show up in the way you try to appease everyone you are talking with. Or it could appear when you cringe thinking of someone’s perspective as you consider a different approach with your marketing, then don’t do it. Thing is, getting a reaction is good. Some people will react positively.  Others may react negatively. But, that’s better than no reaction at all.  Instead ask yourself, what about my idea gets a reaction out of people?

4. “Someone Might Steal My Idea”

Fear of somebody else taking what you dreamed up for their own is a very powerful  force.  It is entirely being driven by your ego!  You’re not that great.  You’re idea’s not that special.  Or unique.  We are seeing more and more innovators making their intellectual property open source, while building successful businesses. It goes to show that ideas are not everything.  Executing well on good ideas is.  No one can steal the way your business is uniquely one of a kind, unless there is nothing original to it. That rarely happens for misfit entrepreneurs.  Instead say to yourself, What is at the essence of my business?

5. “I Need to Figure IT Out Before I Talk with Anyone”

That will NEVER happen.  You will never have IT all figured out.  And whatever you DO figure out, will have happened because of conversations you have had with people critical to finding a product market fit for your product or service.  Instead ask yourself, Who do I need to talk with to help me figure it out?

6. Failure is Bad

You can try to argue with me how you know this, but trust me, the behavior is likely not re-inforced,  unless you were homeschooled.  Our education system breeds fear of failure…Instead ask yourself, What am I thankful for learning from this experience?

Those are 6 limiting beliefs that I have seen cause people, including myself, to self-sabotage on their efforts to apply the lean startup methodology.  It won’t happen overnight, but in time and with a concerted effort, you too can rewrite these limiting mental models!

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