Integrity of Communication Your Secret Startup Weapon
"They are simple tools, and almost all children are adept in their use by the age of ten. Yet presidents and kings will often forget to use them, to their own downfall. The problem lies not in the complexity of these tools but in the will to use them."
—M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
The simplest principles for new venture success are sometimes the hardest to put into practice. Most entrepreneurs and investors will agree that getting the facts about a situation—good, bad, or ugly— is more important than being proved right, and the value of honestly airing differences far outweighs the discomfort it might cause. Yet many of these same venture teams operate from within feel-good bubbles, where perceptions and conversations are distorted by politeness or prejudgment, and where early biases harden into unquestioned dogma.
Cognitive biases are as plentiful as they are powerful, so it’s not surprising that blind spots develop quickly and naturally during the
Startup journey. Feel-good conversations are like comfort food for new venture teams, reinforcing early beliefs and feeding optimism and confidence. When adversity intrudes, as it always does, teams not accustomed to skillfully confronting reality are ill prepared to respond swiftly and smartly. Passion-trapped founders tend to panic instead of lead.
This chapter focuses on how to minimize the overly optimistic distortion of reality that can occur early in the venture formation process, avoid getting trapped in the feel-good bubble, cultivate clarity of thought and discussion, and encourage candor and healthy debate, all while maintaining the positive energy and enthusiasm for your venture. Investing in these outcomes is important, not only as a preventive mechanism, a kind of insurance policy against the risks of unchecked passion, but also as a sound competitive strategy. For venture teams that are smart and disciplined enough to cultivate it, integrity of communication can provide a differentiating advantage in the typical entrepreneurial marketplace, where barriers to entry are often low and success requires outthinking, outhustling, and out - managing the competition.
Integrity of communication is a straightforward concept, easy to understand yet hard to master. It means embracing the raw reality of your venture, in all its glory and with all its warts. It means that anything is discussable, that conversations include relevant data and opinion, and that new information is welcomed without regard to whether it is “good news” or “bad news.” In a high-integrity atmosphere, there is no such thing as bad news, because every piece of data adds to a more complete picture, a clearer, stronger base from which to decide and act.