Overcoming Functional Bias as a Founder

A few years ago, I had a series on Founder Archetypes on my podcast. A few of the archetypes focused on founders with serious functional biases – such as branding or finance. 

So, what is functional bias? It’s an irrational prioritization of one of the 4Ps at the expense of scientifically exploring the others. 

Caving to your functional bias based on a prior career is an ego-satisfying backrub. It preserves the sunk cost of your many years of experience in sales, finance, branding, or whatever. It’s an enormous cognitive bias that often accompanies irrational pessimism(s) about ‘other functions’ in which you aren’t knowledgeable or expert. 

That’s convenient, now, isn’t it?

This is the essence of the founder’s mentality = an irrational belief in this or that tactic’s possibility. An openness to the possibility makes the team willing to try what others may poo-poo in an oppressive tsunami of pessimism. 

And this openness ignores negative case studies from other categories or other tiers of a brand (of which they are many in marketing/advertising, for example).

Openness forces you to try insanely hard to make this or that function work, if it has strategic value, or if there is little else in the playbook to try a not unheard-of situation. This leads to smarter, more pragmatic experimentation. I think that is why folks new to an industry tend to get a lot luckier as entrepreneurs. They aren’t burdened by received assumptions and pessimisms.

The key to overcoming functional bias is two-fold:

  • acknowledging your irrational functional biases and prejudices within the 4Ps
  • making someone else the leader of the experiment beyond your functional expertise

Boom! Happy Monday, folks…

Dr. James Richardson

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