Embracing Version 2.0 or Not Being an Entrepreneurial Gollum

Sharing your ideas is a touchy subject for entrepreneurs. The technology world is teeming with hungry developers and investors looking to be launch the next Facebook, Twitter, what-have-you, and they know they are just one stellar idea away. This is what gives rise to the Gollum-and-the-ring syndrome you see with many entrepreneurs who guard their ideas so jealously until launch that they miss out on crucial feedback that could drastically improve their product.

Digital strategist Mason Pelt talks to entrepreneurs about the danger of cherry-picking data and developing in isolation. At his talk, he used the curious case of Adolf Hitler’s maids to illustrate his point. The women who worked as Hitler’s maids, it turns out, all have glowing opinions of the man to this day. Despite the popular perception of Hitler, these women firmly maintain that he was kind, gracious and a wonderful man to work for. The moral is don’t get married to one data set to the exclusion of all others. Especially if you’re a product developer.

There’s a particular quote attributed to Henry Ford that a certain type of entrepreneur is forever enamored with: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Developer Gollums who insist on working in isolation and shunning feedback love this quote. Unfortunately, according to Pelt, there’s no actual historical record of Ford ever saying this, and at any rate it’s dangerously misleading to business people, because it tells them feedback isn’t important when the opposite is true.

Pelt related a story about an entrepreneur who developed and app that he was sure was going to be as big as Snapchat or Twitter. He did no testing while in development. Once he launched, he decided to test it out in a coffee shop. Ten out of 10 of the people in his coffee shop sample that he showed this app to saw it as useless, couldn’t see why it was invented and had no use for it whatsoever.

To summarize, says Pelt, “Six months of product development was wasted because things were built off of opinions and off of cherry-picked data and off of a freaking Henry Ford quote that he never said.”

Check out the video above to learn more.

R.D. Danes