New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the roadblock that keeps cities--and start-up founders--from solving big problems.
I recently realized that I've been stuck in a rut for years and that rut is ideology.
Yesterday I watched New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu talk about rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The rebuilding of New Orleans is an incredibly inspirational story, not just in how the city rebuilt its infrastructure but also in how it regained a sense of hope.
There was a phrase that Mayor Landrieu repeated that sums up his approach to problem solving: Try to speak with responsibility. Not ideology.
But how does this relate to me and my rut? And how does it relate to my own startup?
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have been in a rut for years. Instead of solving problems with the best solution, I've spent too much time approaching solutions through ideologies. Part of this comes from being a community builder. Communities come together and work because people rally around common ideas. In the case of New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu outlined two examples where he "crossed party lines" to solve problems: once by calling on government intervention, once by contracting the private sector to help.
In the early days of Buyosphere, we aligned tightly with an ideological online community. In fact, we tied ourselves so closely to this group and way of thinking that it began to affect our product development. We lost our focus on solving real problems for real people, which meant we lost our great user experience. We had to take a step back and start thinking responsibly, not ideologically to come up with our current (and growing) version of Buyosphere.
In any business, most ideas are based on conjecture. As Mayor Landrieu said in his presentation, "Lots of people stand around opining about things they don't know about." I've seen this happen in just about every workplace I've been in and we do this all too often in our office. We all become fortune tellers based on personal bias and the next thing you know, we are arguing about everything but how to actually solve user issues.
We can all take a lesson from the way that Mayor Landrieu approaches problem solving: using the best solution for the problem. But it sounds more simple than it is. It requires a daily commitment to thinking about the end goal (ours is helping people find what they are looking for) rather than being married to a particular path to get there. It's often right in front of you and very rarely in adding a feature or ascribing to the current conventional wisdom. And if it means starting over from scratch and rethinking everything, it's better to figure it out sooner than later.
TARA HUNT is the CEO & co-founder of Buyosphere and previously worked with over 30 startups, including Like.com (acquired by Google in 2010). She wrote the bestseller, The Power of Social Networking. @missrogue