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  • Writer's pictureLev Mikulitski

The innocence of ignorance: The most significant engine of growth.

For the past year and a half, I have been assisting companies with a wide range of growth challenges. During this time, I touched on something like 35 companies, most of them technology companies at the beginning of their journey. With some of these companies, I had brief interactions between one specific counseling session and three sessions, with some of the companies it was a structured process of three to six months. Some of the CEOs of the companies I worked with became soul mates and even partners in my personal growth journey. Some even became business partners. No less than I contributed to them, they also contributed to me and my personal development and for that endless appreciation. In this article, and as a big hug to all whoever gave me the privilege of working with him, I want to share with you something amazing that I discovered during this time. This is perhaps the most significant insight derived from working with all these companies.

Let's take a moment and ask ourselves what does it actually mean to grow a startup company? Breakthrough a technological barrier, perhaps an intellectual one? Fulfill a dream and bring about a positive change in the world? Take a moment, think about it, and keep reading.

The growth of a startup company is intertwined with the personal growth of its founding team and especially the CEO on whom all the responsibility rests. These are inseparable things. When a company is formed, the founding team brings to it all its past, including beliefs, successes and failures, values, and all its restrictive perceptions. All of these ultimately affect the awareness range of the founding team and determine the quality of their decision making. The critical decision-making process is what will determine whether your company will succeed in the end or not.

But what can be done when the founding team arrives at the venture when it is already "programmed" to operate ineffectively? What about his total experiences from the past that managed to establish in his subconscious a work pattern that does not allow for growth? It can be devastating. But if we can identify it in time, it can also be prevented.

More than once I have heard from CEOs who were required to decide on particular issue sentences like "I did it before and it did not work ..." or "it sure will not work because ..." or even a sentence like "it worked for me once and it will probably work now as well... ". There is no doubt that something that once worked if the circumstances and challenges are similar can work now as well, but on exactly the same weight, if there is something that did not work once, it will not necessarily work now. Were the conditions similar? Have the same resources been invested? Did we know last time how to do it right? You can ask a lot of focused questions here and realize a very simple fact: the past does not have to affect the present and these generalizations only do harm.

The great managerial challenge is not in the banal things, where the range of action options is known and the perceived and even real risk is relatively low, those in the ability to act and decide in situations where there is no knowledge at all. These situations are the great, high-quality ideas we want to bring to the world, but they are ultimately presented by us on the bed of limiting thinking infrastructures that do not allow these ideas to blossom in our heads and realize their great potential.

If so, the big gap that needs to be bridged is the one that is the biggest insight I have discovered, that on the one hand there are amazing, creative people, with groundbreaking ideas, people who bring unparalleled innovation to the world, and on the other hand, those people fail to break the consciousness barrier which affects their managerial decision-making process.

At this point something very simple needs to be understood: growth will not come from the comfort zone and from the familiar and known place. The existing awareness range will forever be significantly smaller than all the resources required to bring great ideas to fruition. Hence, that growth also will not come from knowing that according to what we do not know. While the very awareness of the unknown is a significant step on the way to harnessing or acquiring the unknown, it is still not enough.

The essence of the power at the base of our growth potential lies in the ability to recognize a very simple fact and that is that there are things we do not know that we do not know. This is the area that is out of our awareness. Extraction of this area of the brain can only be effective if any new experience or information is examined through the prism of "difference" versus what we already know and does not fall into the trap of "resemblance" to what is already familiar to us. If we can ask questions like: "How does it work differently?", "How is it different from what we know?", "What's new about it?", "What else can I get or get out of it?" And we will not fall into the trap of "I see, it's similar to ...", or "It's just like ..." then we will be able to learn something new and grow.

To sum up. Our range of awareness is and only affects the effectiveness of our decision-making process. The more we expand our range of awareness, the more we will bring our brains to new capabilities and this will directly affect our management capabilities and the growth potential of the companies we run. So I can only wish you to think from a place of "yes" and not from a place of "no". Experiment with new experiences and do not be afraid to do something that you will experience for the first time. Practice your learning system and reach new heights.

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