The following is a guest post by Startup Weekend Organizer Ethan Bagley. It was originally published on his personal blog.
Depending on your religious, philosophical, or scientific views, the age of the Universe (as we currently understand it) lies somewhere between the values of 0 and infinity. Though there’s a lot of disagreement on this point, most of the perspectives on the Universe do share a common thread: there was a beginning of some kind, and eventually, out of that beginning, a being called man was generated and went forth to create a great many things, like blogs, start-ups, and peanut butter. And all of those things required some manner of destruction to precede them.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with an interesting fellow who does a lot of work with start-ups and entrepreneurs here in Boston. During the course of our conversation, he echoed a sentiment that you’ll read, overhear, and see demonstrated time and time again: no plan survives. Credited to the German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, this is historically referenced by the following quote:
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
And boy howdy, was Helmuth onto something, which is probably why he’s considered one of the great military minds of the late 19th century. While there’s an obvious gap between the life and times Helmuth experienced, this valuable lesson is still incredibly relevant in modern business. All of the planning in the world is insufficient to prepare you, your company, and your vision for what customers will think. And here’s where the destruction comes in.
There’s a time to stick to your vision, and a time to understand that the enemy has destroyed your plans, and it’s time to adjust. This adjustment is typically referred to as a “pivot” in start-up land. But “pivot” isn’t sufficient to fully describe what that can mean to a fledgling business. The reality is that there has been some feedback that, whether positive or negative, is destructive in the mind of the entrepreneur or the team. Despite the potential negative association, this feedback is also invaluable and not to be ignored.
Too often I have heard from other founders (and occasionally have suffered from, myself) a myopic need to maintain the internalized vision for their product. By blindly following their single-minded path, their ability to break through this wall and create a new vision out of that destruction is missed. It doesn’t matter how long this creation has been in the works, the important thing to recognize is that there is sometimes a need to destroy in order to build something that can be that much better. When it’s clear that the plan is not surviving, move along, or risk your own destruction.