Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Maintaining a vision while loosening our grip

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on October 10, 2009

I was planning initially on sharing a posting today on search strategy in business networking and on posting a second installment tomorrow on business social networking and job search. I will post on them but shift each over by a day as there is another issue that I find myself thinking about, from my ongoing experience with startups and with one in particular. This is a potential problem and a real opportunity that every startup faces and particularly where that organization in the making begins with the vision and intent of one driving individual.

I have seen this played out in a variety of forms and with both successful and success denying results. When we create and carry a vision and a dream for a long time and strive and work to make that dream a reality, it can be very hard to hand progressively more and more pieces of it over to others to define, manage and expand upon. This is a letting go to allow the vision to expand into others and into a real organization that connects out to and meets the needs and priorities of a community. This is not easy as it is in part a giving away of and a relinquishing of that ongoing dream and a turning from the passion that guided it and sustained it.

A real, vibrant organization is not a dream even as it seeks to express the highest values and aspirations of that dream. If we bring that core seed to a startup we have to learn to step back and allow it to grow and under cultivation of others who have different ideas and visions. We have to be willing to let it take on a life of its own and to grow in directions and ways we have not anticipated.

I am writing this as an abstraction and as general principle rather spelling it out in terms of a specific startup but I admit I have one in mind that I am working with now. And we are approaching a crossroads for that startup. It is easy to pigeonhole this type of issue as one of ego and a desire to maintain power and authority but that is not, in essence, what is going on here. It is a lot more about momentum and persistence in seeking to sustain that dream as has been necessary since it was first conceived by one lone individual. It is more about concern that the essence of that dream might be lost in the changes and compromises of its realization. But like letting go of the hand of a child on their way towards growing up and becoming independent, we must loosen our grip and finally let go.

That does not mean forgetting and walking away; it means standing back and staying involved, but with a confidence that our dream, now manifest in the actions and activities of many can thrive and become all we wished for it and more.

I am working with the team for this startup and we are at that crossroads where the initial visionary has to begin to take this so difficult a first step, as we organize and plan to launch. This is exciting and it is challenging, like bearing witness to any birth. And this is a birth and a birthday and good fortune and a bright, thriving future to this startup as it does hold real promise. Meanwhile, we are at that step where we have to hold to our vision but loosen our grip. Happy birthday!

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  1. Tim Platt said, on October 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I have been thinking about this posting and wanted to add a brief addendum to it. This is an issue that will not make a lot of sense to people who have not gone through it but that will for anyone who has – dealing with conflict and disagreement as to goals, priorities and at least potentially most toxically who has a say in creating the organization. There is a lot to this but I will simply note one key point here. It is generally not appreciated or acknowledged but one of the pivotal benchmark points for any startup is its first real disagreement and how that is resolved. A good resolution sets a solid foundation for working out disagreements in the future, and perhaps on more pressing and challenging issues. A great one goes further and can serve as a template for moving forward through disagreements and misunderstandings too.

    OK, I will make that two extra points – in this sense the most important point of disagreement is not necessarily the one that deals most directly with the highest priority and need issues. It is the one that is never quite resolved, and that is allowed to fester. This is the problem that future disagreement and misunderstanding, and hard feelings and distrust can and will spring from and if anything turns into a cause of death for a startup, this is one of the first places to look for it. So finding constructive resolutions is a key to success and that means recognizing those early disagreements and building from them for strength.

  2. Savannah said, on October 17, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

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