In my experience…naiveté is a competitive advantage
The benefit of experience is assumed to be that it leads to knowledge, better decision-making and even confidence. Those gray hairs and crow’s feet seem to imply wisdom, know-how and certainty. While there are times I agree with both of those statements, since I appreciate the value of experience, I’d be a fool to believe they were true 100% of the time. Experience doesn’t guarantee progress or success.
I like innovators because the ideas and passion that come from them are refreshing. They either aren’t jaded by experience or don’t let past experience deter them from future risk-taking. I spend a lot of my time in a world where the viewpoint is one of, “Here’s why that won’t work” or “That’s not possible”. Most of the time entrepreneurially-minded individuals aren’t burdened by these preconceived constraints when they’re ideating, which may sound naïve. In my experience, this naiveté is a huge advantage.
If naiveté didn’t exist, I believe most progress and innovation would be dead. Thankfully this ability (and I do believe it’s an ability) to be naïve is not limited by age or any other demographic categorization. In fact, I think there’s value in “experienced naiveté”, which applies to those of us in the workforce who still believe nearly anything is possible even if we’ve seen something to the contrary. A friend once told me that if we weren’t at least a little bit naïve we’d never take chances in our jobs or entrepreneurship.
The belief in possibility when there’s no evidence to support it gives the believer hope, motivation and a goal. I’m a serial entrepreneur with some successes and some failures. At the beginning of each of my ventures the extreme optimism and conviction I felt was due in large part to my naiveté. It’s actually quite energizing to believe something is possible without having the baggage of excessive doubt.
That’s not to say doubt shouldn’t or doesn’t exist. It’s probably almost as strong as the optimism in any entrepreneur, and therein lies the reason innovation happens. Even the slightest imbalance of doubt and optimism, skewed in the direction of optimism, means naiveté has won and an attempt at innovation is going to be made.
That said, I don’t believe that anyone can ride the naiveté-train from beginning to end without injecting experience and reality into the mix. There are organizational, operational and fiscal realities that must be acknowledged if not wholesale adhered to. That’s how the blending of innovation (the dream) and operationalization (making it happen) is accomplished. Entrepreneurs don’t know, or at least don’t acknowledge, that they’re not supposed to succeed. They try anyway and surround themselves with people who can help make it happen.