One of the most common mistakes I see founders do, is to assume everything is under their control—or to simply ignore the things which aren’t. It’s a decent coping strategy in a world full of uncertainty. And as my friend and colleague Jeffrey Rogers likes to point out, it’s important to differentiate between the things you actually can not know (irreducible uncertainties) and the things you could know, but don’t (reducible uncertainties).
All too often we tend to ignore the crucial, alas non-controllable factors which surround our product or service. The things which can accelerate or prohibit our solution from being successful in the market. I like to call these factors “Gestalt”.
Gestalt is one of those weirdly beautiful (and surpassingly short) German words which only exist, as a concept, in the German language (other examples include Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude). The definition of Gestalt (or Holism) is “the idea that natural systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as loose collections of parts.”
Applied to the world of products, services and business-at-large, you have to look, and take into consideration, all the factors, not just the core of your offering. The futurist community has a great acronym for those factors: STEEPS — Scientific, Technological, Environmental, Economical, Political, Social. Ask yourself which of those factors (the Gestalt) need to be in place and/or removed for you to be successful. And remember: Regularly these are outside of your control.
Want to create a Bitcoin-Trading platform in Ecuador? You might have the chops and the time might be right, but sadly the Ecuadorian government will throw you into jail for doing so. (Political) Get people to wear Augmented Reality Glasses with a built-in camera? It might be socially not only awkward but outright unacceptable – so much so that people wearing your glasses might be denied entrance into many public spaces (as has happened with Google Glass). (Social) Developed the worlds-best movie streaming service in the late 90s? Visionary and good on you – but as long as there isn’t high enough broadband penetration in the households, you won’t have any customers being able to make use of your service. (Technological)
Next time you ponder your next big thing, not only examine the maturity and product-market fit of your core invention but also all the other factors which might be outside of your control, but are crucial for your success: The Gestalt.