I also love business. I am a big fan of the business world and am currently involved in entrepreneurship as co-founder of Tasksauce. But to me, the business world always appeared to be a bit intellectually shallow. A lot of the advice that you got in self-help books about entrepreneurship was a bit strange to me to say the least. One of the worst piece of advice is the whole notion of perseverance. People are advised to persevere in business and keep working at it.
All of that is well and good. But how do you actually know if you are "flogging a dead horse"? That is, how do you if your business idea sucks, and nobody wants what you are selling? People don't seem to distinguish between Thomas Edison's perseverance and just dumb perseverance. Edison was solving a problem that everyone wanted solved! So he was persevering down the right path. It is knowing that you are on the right path that difficult to establish.
This is where the Lean Startup methods are useful. You can quickly find out, from using these methods if anybody wants what you are proposing to sell. You can do this quickly and with a minimum viable products.
I strongly feel that there is a role for social scientists in the space. In doing lean, startups actually have a need for what we are excellent at! We have developed cutting edge and fine tuned methods to assess human behaviour. We have even developed methods to gain access into the cognition the underlies human behaviour and decision making. I think every startup should have a social scientist on their payroll!
Here is a very brief non-exhaustive list of what we can do, that most people struggle with:
- Develop falsifiable hypotheses.
- Create well controlled experiments to test those hypotheses.
- Analyse and interpret data (very difficult with human behaviour!).
- Use data to advise on good directions to pivot.
Another useful way social scientists can help is in developing good interview questions for customer discovery. We can also keep the founders focused on the goal, which is validated learning rather biased proof to support their vision. There are many more ways social scientist can help businesses using the Lean Startup methodology and I will get into the specific in future posts.
Suffice to say, that I have never been more excited about being an academic and an entrepreneur. I think I have found my calling! I hope its not too late, I am nearly 40 (aarrrgggghhhh!!).