Wishful Thinking – Greatest Enemy of Today's Entrepreneur

by Patrick Lefler

Wishful Thinking - Greatest Enemy of Today's EntrepreneurIt’s been said that in warfare, the greatest enemy of victory is wishful thinking. The same can easily be said for today’s entrepreneur.

In its most basic definition, “wishful thinking” is believing something because of a desire that it be true. It’s thinking that ignores fact, and instead, relies on a premise for the conclusion to be true. For entrepreneurs, it can be a bias towards a certain solution (Solution A) which leads to the overestimating of the evidence supporting that solution. It can also result in the underestimation of evidence that supports other solutions besides Solution A.

Despite all the hoopla that entrepreneurs need to have passion in their endeavors and exhibit a “never give up” attitude, this type of flawed critical thinking can be deadly. In fact, it’s about the quickest way to run a new venture into the ground and go bust.

Instead, entrepreneurs need to separate well-reasoned critical thinking from passion. They need to have a clear head so that when challenges arise, they can apply unbiased problem solving techniques and be willing to take action and make the appropriate changes–pivoting as we like to say–when the problem has been defined and the cause(s) identified. With wishful thinking, one rarely gets past the stage of recognizing that, in fact, a problem even exists.

Problems–even small ones where a keen eye is needed to recognize–that go unchecked can cause much more damage over a period of time than a larger one that flares up and then dies down. When you combine the inherent difficulty of identifying these small flare-ups with the bias of ignoring (or not searching out) evidence of such due to wishful thinking, a recipe for disaster awaits you.

Here’s the takeaway: Entrepreneurs need to always be cognizant of the negative consequences that can be attached with having a strong passion for their start-up venture. If this passion turns into a strong bias towards a particular solution, this “wishful thinking” can lead to disastrous results.

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Patrick LeflerPatrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group – a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.

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  1. Great article ! For the beginners or starts up, wishful thinking often coming, it makes sense because they will have the hope overly. But , then the fail would be a previous lessons for getting a success in the future.

  2. As an entrepreneur, I agree that wishful thinking can be your greatest danger; I have certainly been guilty of it myself. But I also think it can be one of your greatest strengths too.

    Many well-known venture investors have spoken about investing in young, first-time entrepreneurs whose are able to pursue lofty goals that others would tell them they’ll never achieve. Their lack of experience, or ignorance, or naivete, or wishful thinking – whatever term you want to use – frees them to attack bold, innovative ideas where there isn’t available data to predict success.

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