Artisan Startups walk the thin line between innovation and incompetence


Entrepreneurship is all about flawless execution. An entrepreneur has to be competent and aware of his own limitations. Doing the wrong things, or the right things wrong, does not propel the business. It hurts. It is nothing more than a waste of time, money and talent.

Flawless execution is an impossible task for Startup entrepreneurs. They are exploring, innovating and trying to make sense of the fast changing worlds they are creating. Uncertainty is the status quo. The whole point of the Startup is to learn through experiments. This can lead to great successes. But it is also accepted, that failures are part of the game.

This innovative character is a pitfall. It is all too easy to innovate in all areas of the business, also where execution should be done in the most straightforward manner. In a world where curiosity and innovation are at the core of an organization, it is surprisingly difficult to separate the research practice from the down to earth practice of running a company.

For Startups it is especially challenging to not reinvent the wheel. In an exciting young business, everything is new. And in a Startup it is hard to acknowledge that some of the business activities are actually ancient. The general practice of business is understood, documented and taught in schools around the world. Selling, bookkeeping and working well with others are universal skills for any entrepreneur. Although the company may be high tech, the underlying principle of business management are the same.

Failing to separate what is new to the world, from what is new to the entrepreneur is an indication of incompetence and arrogance. As harsh as this judgment seems, I genuinely empathize. Only after the wheel is reinvented, the realization dawns how easy things could have been with a little hindsight. So we struggle, and carry over our experiences to the next adventure. We learn and improve not just the company, but also ourselves.

Starting, establishing and growing a Startup is challenging, but it is by no means a black art or wizardry. Competent Startup entrepreneurs can walk the thin line between innovation and incompetence. They have the skills and experience, and brings in outside expertise when needed. They craft beautiful Startups effectively and efficiently. These Startups are works of art.

I call them the Artisan Startups.

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