Entrepreneurs as Probabilistic Thinkers

Last week I was talking to an accomplished entrepreneur and I asked what trait he saw in another entrepreneur that made her successful. Without missing a beat, he said she was a probabilistic thinker. Hmm, that’s interesting. I hadn’t heard anyone use that characteristic when describing someone else.

Now, several days later, that idea is still resonating with me. Growing up in the traditional K-12 and higher education world, most things were black and white — grades, test scores, etc. Only, the real world is dramatically different. Perfect information isn’t a thing. Decisions are made using the best available information and outcomes are much more nuanced. Then, layer in entrepreneurship and the quantity of decisions that have to made with limited information goes up even higher.

A probabilistic thinker is someone who thinks through chance variations. What’s the likelihood A, B, or C happen? What can we do to change those probabilities? What decision do we make based on the probabilities? Whether they realize it or not, entrepreneurs are constantly assessing the chance variations and picking a path.

Layer in chance variations across so many facets of a startup like sales, marketing, product development, customer success, operations, and more, and the overall complexity is intimidating. Yet, an entrepreneur that’s a strong probabilistic thinker is making better decisions repeatedly that compound over time. Similar to the idea that if you’re 1% better per day, that equates to a 37x improvement over a year, better decision making on a daily basis results in remarkably better outcomes over longer periods of time.

The next time the topic of successful entrepreneur traits comes up, add probabilistic thinker to the list.

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