2016 should be a year where you innovate your business. Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One says “Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.” I believe entrepreneurs should strive to create new industries or enhance existing industries to the next level.
When you think of an entrepreneur, you think of someone with an original idea, who dares to go in a new direction and takes on huge challenges to build something truly innovative. What you think of less often is someone who is disagreeable.
Yet essentially, this is the characteristic that often decides who succeeds and who fails in the world of startups.
In order to pioneer great innovations, entrepreneurs need to be disagreeable.
By disagreeable, I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant. Someone who is disagreeable is a person who “does not require the social approval of their peers to go forward with disruptive ideas.” In other words, someone disagreeable is someone who will keep pursuing an idea, even when met by opposition.
Every entrepreneur encounters opposition when they try to create something new. They are told that their product will not work; that they won’t be able to carve a niche in the market; that they are taking too big a risk and should settle for something less chancy.
Take Steve Jobs for example: the industry fought iTunes when it was first rolled out, but he fought back against the record labels and revolutionised the way music is purchased. Jobs was an incredibly difficult person to work with; temperamental, stubborn, a perfectionist. But by insisting that there was always a better way to do things, he made a profound change in the world of consumer electronics that raised the bar for every other tech company out there
In his book David and Goliath, Gladwell uses an example when discussing disagreeable leaders is Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA. In 1961, Kamprad found a way to give IKEA an edge by outsourcing his furniture to Poland. This was during the height of the Cold War: many were outraged that he outsourced work to a communist country. Actions like this challenge the established order and say that there is in fact another way of doing things, one that helps your business get ahead.
Elon Musk has to overcome resistance from certain stakeholders that his idea of solar cars is not practical.
Great innovators are people willing to take social risks, to do things that others might disapprove of. That is not easy. Society frowns on disagreeableness.
If you are to innovate, you need not seek the approval of others for your ideas.
As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention.
Do it even when people think you are crazy.
I think we have to be disagreeable in the service of the client, not disagreeable in the service of the Resistance. When we are being disagreeable, we are doing it on behalf of the client achieving more, not our ego achieving more, not us being more famous, but the client getting more of what he or she wants.