For more than 50 years, sports professionals have been working systematically to spot talent, develop talent and financially support talent in order to create world champions. From sports we know it takes a bit of talent and a lot of practice to become a star or even be in top ten. We also know that the main driver of success is the amount and the quality of practice.
We would never expect anyone to win an Olympic medal without a lot practice. In sports there is a rule of thumb saying that you have to practice at least 10.000 hours to become good and have chance to succeed. 10.000 hours of systematic practice. 10.000 hours equals approximately five years full time. What if entrepreneurship is exactly the same? What if the dominant driver for success is the amount and the quality of practice. This would raise a couple of questions. How much should entrepreneurs practice, what are the skills they have to develop and how could those skills be practiced most efficiently?
We do not today know the exact answers to those questions but finding them could fundamentally change the way we look at entrepreneurship and the way we build businesses. When for example a football team loses a match and you ask the coach what he or she intend to do, the typical answer is that we have to practice some more. I have never heard an entrepreneur losing a customer, missing a milestone or getting a rejection on an investment saying I have to go back and practice some more. I know a lot are doing it but practice and learning is not part of the mindset of many entrepreneurs.
I do not believe that you practice entrepreneurship in a classroom – I believe you practice it by running a business, developing your product, getting customers on board etc. But I also believe that practice can be more or less systematic and that can be of great influence on whether you succeed or not. Let us for a moment look at how you practice in sports.
Usually practice consists of four things: physical training, technical training, tactical training and then a lot of practice matches where you try to apply your physical, technical and tactical skills to real situation. The focus is constantly on how you build automatics into your actions at competitions or in the game and therefore elite athletes are extremely focused on details. If we apply the analogy to entrepreneurship, the physical training in sports equals your cash and your cost in your venture. What you want to focus on is how long you can run because you know that you have to learn and because you know you have to iterate your business and you are going to lose more in the beginning than you win. The technical training in entrepreneurship is in my mind four things:
- Your ability to formulate actionable assumptions and the precision of your assumptions
- Your ability to prioritize these assumptions so you focus on the ones that drive value
- Your ability to design experiments that can give you data on whether your assumptions are right or wrong
- Your ability to interpret the data you get from experiments and the input that you get and turn that into new actions and new assumptions
The tactical part is who you experiment with and interact with in which order, how you design equity, who you bring on as partners etc. Then you run a lot of practice matches, interacting with potential customers, partners, investors etc. Like in sport there is a lot repetition. I strongly believe that entrepreneurship can be learned but I also believe that it takes time – the 10.000 hours. I strongly believe that the way entrepreneurship is practiced can be even more systematic. My ambition is to figure out exactly how to practice entrepreneurship, what to practice and how to do it efficiently and I will use this blog to explore this idea and as a call for your insight…