Dearing uses the theory of cognitive distortion propounded by the University of Pennsylvania's Aaron Beck to identify five kinds of "automatic thinking" that color the way founders observe, judge and act. Dearing, who in his roles as early-stage investor and Stanford professor has met thousands of entrepreneurs, says the successful ones exhibit personal exceptionalism, black-and white thinking, acceptance of disruption in the interests of building something better, the ability to correctly project a line from a single point, and the tendency to view the world as a blank canvas for their original art.
Each distortion, says Dearing, conveys a "superpower." They are...
- Confidence and charisma
- The ability to inspire brilliance and excellence
- Fearlessness in the face of change
- The ability to make generalizations that turn out to be true
- Fresh, innovative thinking
But each distortion also comes with a deadly risk, a kind of entrepreneurial Kryptonite. Those risks can be mitigated through organizational design, management practices, or just by asking the right questions, says Dearing.
Dearing says founders view the world through special goggles that make them, "well, more like founders." Make sure your own founder-shaped goggles are strapped on tight and take a look.