Fear of the False Negative

Giff Constable innovation, lean, startups

I used to worry about false negatives, or killing a good idea too early. “Startups are not instant hits,” I would tell myself.

That’s a true statement. All startups are a hard fight. Almost all startups take far longer than the “overnight-success” articles imply.

But after years of creating new products and companies, I would rather kill a good idea in the hunt for a truly great idea, because I accept that good is not good enough.


Practicing lean startup doesn’t guarantee success; it just improves the odds. But it does a very good job of ensuring that you aren’t wasting your time and money chasing dead ends.

“Not wasting time” doesn’t sound very romantic, but after you’ve been burned a few times, it starts to take on major importance.

Even the great ideas are phenomenally hard, risky and stressful to get off the ground. If the quality is less than truly great, then you are in for a long and painful struggle. That might be ok if you have a trust fund, but most of us do not.

So don’t be afraid of false negatives. Lead with vision, but don’t make your vision precious and holy. Challenge both your vision and your current solution formula, and then use judgement to determine what needs to change.

I’m not promoting being flaky, because often you need to iteration or pivot, not completely change, but I can say that my bar for what constitutes “validation” of my ideas has gone up. How high is your bar?

When I interviewed Fred Wilson, he spoke about investing in weeds, i.e. companies that, no matter how much they screw up the execution, the thing just won’t die. Do you believe that you have created a weed?

Photo credit: “Dead End” by¬†monstersweare on Flickr