How to avoid making bad decisions or mistakes in your startup?

By Desh Deshpande

(Editor’s note: This is Part-10 of the weekly video column with philanthropist and serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, with excerpts from his book “On Entrepreneurship and Impact.” This column appears every Monday.)

Desh Deshpande

Entrepreneurs ask me, “Desh, how do I avoid making mistakes or bad decisions that could hurt my startup?” This is a two-part question about a) avoiding bad decisions and b) avoiding making mistakes.

On Bad Decisions: People think they have made a bad decision in retrospect. When they are about to make a decision in a fast-paced environment, they are always making the ‘right’ decision based on all the facts available at that time.

On Mistakes: Mistakes are ideas that people hang onto even when they know it is not a good idea.

In a dynamic startup environment, you might make 10 decisions a week. All of those decisions seem like good ones at the moment, because you obviously wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t in the best interest of the company.

Whether those decisions are right or wrong only becomes clear with time when you realize that some of those decisions were beneficial to your company and some weren’t. Looking back, some of those decisions now appear like bad decisions.

Great leaders create value for their organization as they are able to weed out bad decisions and to stop investing resources in those areas right away.

Ego plays a big role.

There are two types of ego: personal ego and organizational ego.

In egocentric organizations, there’s a focus on “authorship of ideas”. Employees know who has come up with the idea and people take pride in their contribution. When something doesn’t work the strong association with the idea makes it harder for an employee to let go. The decisions become personal, political and emotional.

In egoless organizations where people are really excited about thinking through and coming up with solutions, “authorship of ideas” disappears. The team looks at an idea objectively and together, instead of bringing individual egos into the picture. If it becomes obvious that an idea isn’t a good one, the team quickly comes to a consensus that it shouldn’t be done and moves on. It’s a much better way of working with others. The sole focus is the well being of the company and not the individual.

It’s hard for anyone to operate in ideal conditions where there are no mistakes, no ego and all the right decisions. However, being humble and being aware of times when your ego is taking over will help you smoothen the ride.

In closing, the key to avoiding bad decisions is to manage your ego.

About Desh Deshpande:

During his entrepreneurial career spanning over three decades, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande has built several companies. He has injected his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship into a number of social impact initiatives in India, the USA and Canada. He has been recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments by many institutions including being named co-chair of President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He currently also serves as a Life Member of the MIT corporation. He resides in Boston together with his wife, Jaishree.

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