Personal knowledge – experience vs belief

At last week’s CIBC Presents Entrepreneurship 101 lecture, Veronica Litinski outlined the key communication tools every entrepreneur needs for their business. She challenged the audience with a question: can you have someone else prepare these materials (such as a business plan) for you?

While the videos of Ali G pitching various ideas to skeptical potential investors suggest that in his case, indeed he might have been wise to do so, it was clear from the lecture that it is not a recommended route. And yet MaRS strongly supports having entrepreneurs rely on mentors and advisors in helping them shape their plans. If the entrepreneur chooses to ignore the advice of a MaRtian (or other) advisor, are they being foolish, or simply taking ownership of their own fate?

I believe that all knowledge is personal knowledge (see for example Michael Polanyi’s book on the subject). I would contend that all knowledge is made up of a mixture of fact, observation, experience and belief. A first-time entrepreneur brings passionate belief but limited experience; an advisor brings experience coupled with skepticism as they consider a business opportunity. They both have a shared base of fact (market data for instance) and they observe the same overall situation, but they may reach different conclusions based on the dissimilarities in the other two components. As an entrepreneur how much faith should you put in advice from others as you create your plans?

Downloads and Resources

Weren’t able to attend the class? Need some notes or want to look something up? Click below for all of the goodies from the lecture.

Essential Communication Tools for Entrepreneurs from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.