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Technology & Innovation

Is Starting a Business an Art or a Science?

Two business professionals differ in their views of launching a start up. One says entrepreneurs should trust their instinct. The other says being mindful of data pays dividends. 

Business as Art

High profile entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson have made decisions that seem crazy to the rest of us. In fact, becoming a successful entrepreneur entails lots of illogical behavior, says Steve Blank, professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and Berkeley. But that does not necessarily mean entrepreneurs are reckless or short-sited. “People attribute radical decisions to their guts,” says Blank, “but there is actually a lot of hard thinking and information processing that goes on subconsciously before there’s a pattern match.”

Business as Science

Kay-Yut Chen, principal scientist at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, says that a more data driven approach can help businesses succeed more than trusting instinctive decision making. Data can show us counterintuitive facts like the paradox of choice, for example. Businesses may assume that the more choice they offer their customers, the better. But research shows too much choice can paralyze our decision making faculty. Following the numbers can also tell someone when to throw in the towel, a decision often obscured by emotional attachments. 

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