quote by John C. Maxwell

Pride and decay

I recently snapped the above photo while wandering in the grounds of a glorious old estate where a friend was working and I was saddened to see what was obviously once somebody’s pride and joy, now abandoned and left to decay.

The fact that the registration plate spelled “EGO” led me to reflect on the problem of pride in a business context and the subsequent decay it causes.

Over the last few years I’ve advised a number of early stage startups on their product proposition and go-to-market strategy. Given that a recent report by the analyst group CB insights¬†reveals that 42% of startups fail due to “lack of product market fit”, it’s a good idea to canvas the advice of a wide variety of people (especially if one of those is me ?¬†) before committing a huge amount of resources to execute on your concept and no, your close family and friends do NOT make a good sounding board for your idea …………

Some of those have taken my advice (and that of others) to “pivot” or have an “aha!” moment that leads them down a different path to that which they originally envisioned. To borrow the eloquent wording of the indomitable Cindy Gallop on her LinkedIn profile – “I like to blow shit up” – and the shit I like to blow up is preconceived ideas and product propositions. In the first instance, I like to open people’s minds to the art of the possible and in the second instance I like to expand on their initial idea to the point where they start getting scared of the enormity of their idea ……… because that’s where the magic happens and thats the “10x” growth that VC’s and angels are looking for. That’s how you are going to secure your investment and the future of your company.

Cindy Gallop profile pic

Others however, have been deafened by their own pride.

Nobody in the world wants to hear that they have an ugly baby and unfortunately, I’ve met a few founders who have been so caught up with the idea that they have given birth to, that my advice (and that of others) has fallen on completely deaf ears. They have continued down a path of self destruction, relentlessly raising capital from friends and family, burning cash on an insatiable fire of avarice and arrogance that finally flames out, leaving nothing but a stinking pile of the ashes of their investors’ hopes and dreams, often with far reaching and devastating consequences to all those involved.

It’s not only startups that are deafened by their own pride.

I’ve repeatedly been struck by the institutional arrogance of large incumbents across multiple industries who firmly believe that they have an unassailable market position and they regard “tinkering” with innovation and new product or proposition development as something to do on the side while they get on with the serious stuff of running business as usual.

These organisations don’t like to “blow shit up” and normally they try their hardest to stop anyone from challenging the status quo both internally and externally. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, I fear that they too will become a forgotten relic of the past, abandoned by their customers and left to decay, just like the once magnificent Rolls Royce in the picture above.

Please – don’t be deafened by your pride.


If you are interested in igniting your innovation initiative across your organisation – please do get in touch – I’m told I’m quite good at lighting fires which is handy when you like to blow shit up ?

The image above is ¬© Andrew Vorster (that’s me) – but please free to share it far and wide using this link – where you can find a few more inspirational quotes to contemplate.