Naiveté is an asset

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Towards the end of last week I visited one of my clients, Voxeo, to discuss a new project I'm working on. While on the trip I had the opportunity to meet with Dave Hoff, one of the co-founders of imified which was recently acquired by Voxeo. For a little background, imified makes it easy for developers to "IM enable" their applications. Essentially, it allows users to communicate with web applications by using chat clients such as AOL Instant Messenger, gtalk, and other common chat protocols.

I love talking to entrepreneurs about how their businesses got started and the challenges they encountered; I get a ton of inspiration by talking to them. While I was chatting with Dave about how imified got started, he said that had they known how difficult integrating with all the different public chat protocols was, they probably would never have gotten off the ground.

When he said this I recalled a special I watched about the Chudnovsky brothers and their work with the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. They had to merge the data from numerous high resolution digital photographs of the tapestries for a project with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These brothers are two brilliant mathematicians and when talking about the project they basically said that there was no way they would have taken it on had they known how difficult it was going to be. Once they got started of course, they had to finish.

Naiveté, it turns out, is an asset.

Have you ever had an idea and shared it with someone who knows a lot in that particular field? Likely they dismisses it, stating how difficult or complex it would be. They'll give you a host of reasons as to why the consumer won't buy it, or why it can't be built, or if it can be built and the consumer would buy it, why marketing it would be so hard that no one would find out about it anyway.

The problem is, they're burdened with the knowledge of all the difficulties that inevitably lie ahead. In their minds, the challenges dwarf any possible benefit. They don't understand the dream because they're too hung up on the effort that would be involved.

Their knowledge is a liability.

This isn't to say that expertise is bad. Becoming an expert, and working with experts, is probably an inevitability of any successful person or business. My point however, is that before you do anything, you have to get started. Anything that helps you get started is an asset.

Just imagine, how many people would have children if it weren't for a little naiveté? Who would put in thousands of hours of school and internships working to become an MD? Who would be a teacher?

If you have the opportunity to start something, don't let the fact that you don't know everything prevent you from trying. Very likely, the reason you're even willing to make the attempt is because you're "naive" enough to try. This instantly gives you a leg up on your competition.

Sometimes knowing too much can be a liability, embrace your naiveté.