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  3.6. Overcoming the Learning Traps (4 min.)

George Quist, founder of a well-known executive search firm, insisted that the most important entrepreneurial characteristic is “intellectual honesty above all,” which he defined as “a willingness to face up to facts rigorously whether they prove you right or wrong.” At the core, entrepreneurs must develop an attitude of learning - brutally honest learning. Developing an attitude of learning has these four basic components:

1. Reframing the Purpose: Reframing the purpose of your venture to be "learning what the market wants" rather than "proving that your idea works," is the first step to shedding the learning traps that hold you back. You will also avoid the pitfall of thinking the Nail It Then Scale It process is just a shortcut to getting investment money or a shortcut to success. Instead, you will, like the scientist in the laboratory, become more objective and focused on learning the truth about your idea.

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2. Becoming an Expert Novice: Most of us believe that being an expert is a good thing. But research and experience suggest that being an expert can be dangerous because they usually are convinced they are right, and as a result they have a hard time really learning in an intellectually honest way. Consequently, we suggest becoming an "expert novice" - that is, someone who has what Tom Kelley, founder of the revolutionary design firm IDEO, describes as “a healthy balance between confidence in what you know and distrusting what you know just enough that keeps you thirsty for more knowledge.”When entrepreneurs have this balance, they are more willing to look at evidence that may prove them wrong or change their perspective.

3. Real-time Feedback: Significant amounts of real-time feedback help correct overconfidence, increase pattern recognition, and help us see the truth. One of the key differentiating factors between There.com and IMVU was the contrast between There.com managers’ unchallenged beliefs and IMVU’s focus on gathering constant, continuous feedback. The lack of real-time feedback led There.com to build what they imagined customers wanted, whereas IMVU was able to continuously morph an initial idea into the right solution for the right market.

4. Data-Driven Learning: When engaging in the Nail It Then Scale It process, entrepreneurs should focus on learning from the data, specifically the right data, rather than taking shortcuts and blind leaps. Good decisions require good data, and impatient entrepreneurs have discovered how expensive shortcuts can be. The Nail It Then Scale It process helps you cut through all the noise and places the focus on predictive data by engaging with prospective customers the right way. You must learn to draw your conclusions from this critical data and let the data make the decisions for you.

(See Nail It Then Scale It, pgs. 51-56)