In the season’s finale of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey — a redux of astronomer Carl Sagan’s seminal 1980 documentary series — is Carl Sagan’s brilliant “Pale Blue Dot” speech, remastered and immediately followed up by a great speech from Neil deGrasse Tyson himself, outlining the ideals of science, and the 5 simple rules past generations of explorers and researchers followed that allowed our human civilization to accomplish what we have to date:
How did we, tiny creatures living on that spec of dust, ever manage to figure out how to send spacecraft outer among the stars of the milky way? Only a few centuries ago, a mere second of the cosmic time. We knew nothing of where and when we were. Oblivious to the rest of the cosmos, we inhabited a kind of prison, a tiny universe bounded by a nutshell.
How did we escape form the prison? It was the work of generation of searchers, who took 5 simple rules to heart:
- Question authority. No idea is true just because someone says so, including me. Think for yourself.
- Question yourself. Don’t believe anything just because you want to. Believing something doesn’t make it so.
- Test ideas, by the evidence gained from observation and experiment. If a favorite idea fails a well designed test, it’s wrong. Get over it.
- Follow the evidence, wherever it leads. If you have no evidence, reserve judgment.
- And perhaps even the most important rule of all: remember you could be wrong. Even the best scientist have been wrong about somethings. Newton, Einstein, and ever other great scientist in history. They all made mistakes. Of course they did, their were human. Science is a way keep from fooling ourselves and each other.
I found these key scientific rules for research Tyson describes to be true for business and entrepreneurship as well.
Building on the key principles and adjusting to the startup context, I give you:
The 5 key rules for startups and entrepreneurs:
- Question the Status Quo. There’s always a “better way”. Opportunities lie behind around every corner. It takes a strong heart to challenge the status quo and innovate. Think for yourself of what’s possible. This is how all disruptive startups start and how market leaders stay ahead.
- Question yourself. Having a strong belief in your startup doesn’t make it successful, hard work helps, but not all startups are successful, nor should they all be. You might be on the wrong track and need to adjust course. Seek dedicated mentors and honest feedback that will help you create a productive self-questioning narrative.
- Test Your Ideas By the evidence gained from experiments in the market with real users/clients/audience. If a startup fails to gain traction in a well defined market, with clear goals and product strategy then perhaps it was not meant to be! Take your learnings and apply them to testing the next great idea.
- Follow the evidence, wherever it leads. Seek the evidence of your idea’s success, prove market validation or retain a small but loyal customer base. The data speaks for itself.
- You could be wrong. Even the greatest leaders and most successful founders have seen failure at least once in their career. Don’t take failure as a bad thing, it is the greatest opportunity to learn and grow.