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.


Resources and Readings

Thanks to Internet search technology and social media interconnec­tivity, answers to most entrepreneurial questions can be found with a few clicks. I have attempted to list sources beyond the usual …

Startup Readiness Tool

This tool can be used to: ■ Evaluate and improve a founding team’s readiness to launch a business ■ Calibrate the timing of a startup effort (accelerate or delay) ■ …


The deepest form of entrepreneurial commitment acknowledges and accepts that there are forces in the marketplace that are beyond the founder’s control, forces that will impact the venture’s destiny for …

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