Calling narrow-mindedness “being focused”
I have a running joke with my partner that everything can always be linked back to Jurassic Park, and now startups are included in “everything”. The term, first written in Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton in 1990, was described as this:
They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.
I’ve seen this in a lot of startups, in vanity metrics, in desperate pivots, in cultural problems *Uber*. Startups who are focused on pleasing only one side, whether that be investors, customers instead of users, listening to the wrong customer feedback, or not listening at all.
Rather than lay all the cards on the table and then make a decision, thintelligent people only reveal cards on the table until they come up with something — when the very next card might be the one that proved it all wrong.
A professional acquaintance asked me to help them work on a business idea. It involved selling a niche product which they wanted to import as an exclusive high end product.
On surface level it was a great idea. After sleeping on it, I had a lot of questions. Was this a product that people were more likely to buy for themselves or as a gift? Something they were likely to buy repeatedly? Is there a reason this is a niche and not a mainstream product when in its home country it’s mainstream? What price point does “exclusive” mean? What’s the marketing strategy?
The answer to almost all of these questions was “I think it’s an amazing product so everyone will buy it for themselves and as gifts because they love it so much, and it’s such a great product we won’t need to market it, it will sell itself”.
What happens to thintelligent people?
Some fail. Some take longer than they should have to get to their eventual outcome. In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries talked about how if they had have just listened to their customers, IMVU could have saved a lot of time and money.
By not looking for ripple effects, or planning poorly, thintelligent people are disadvantaging themselves. From the case study, not knowing who the customer is means un-targeted efforts for marketing, leading to vanity metrics like 1k unique daily visitors to the website but $0 in sales. It results in buying and importing way too much stock without being able to move product, wasting money on storage or even losing money by having to sell it at a discount. Sometimes people have never done something before for a very good reason, so maybe it’s a niche product because it doesn’t suite local tastes or lifestyle.
Not to say that this particular case study won’t be a success, but it’s setting itself up for a bunch of hurdles it could have completely avoided.