What ideas have good startup founders internalised?

There’s so much information out there for startup founders these days that it’s become important to sift between the good, the bad and the just vaguely interesting. When I look at books or stories that are intended for ‘the startup crowd’ I generally ask myself a couple of quick questions:

  1. Does it have reproducible data behind it (ie it’s about more than one company or person)?
  2. Is it actionable?

I think that probably means you can ignore 99% of the posts on tech blogs and news sites, but it does mean that some ideas stick and are worth learning more about. When I think of the founders I really respect there are a few ideas they’re all familiar with:

  • They have a good system for personal productivity — usually it’s some variation of Getting Things Done
  • They have an honest approach to team dynamics and working in groups — they know how important it is to overcome the Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • They’re aware of how other people work — they respect different people’s ways of managing their time and don’t write people off just because they’re Quiet.
  • They know that listening to customers is the most important thing in developing a new product or service — they’ve probably read the Lean Startup or some Steve Blank.
  • They know that inspiration can come from completely different fields but it’s not about big breakthrough moments, just constantly improving your craft.

Of course it’s one thing to have read the books but quite another to be able to act on them. It’s about internalising ideas, not just knowing about them. I’m not sure how that process really happens (and obviously some people pick up all the above without reading any of the books) but the difference between people who’ve read the books and people who understand them is usually pretty easy to spot.

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