“Man, it’s weird,” one of my friends told me, “It was there, but I just couldn’t see it.” We were sailing on the Columbia river at sunset, talking about his problems with his ex-girlfriend. After breaking up, he began to see patterns in his behavior that resulted in him being single again. Post breakup, post hurt, post introspection he could clearly see problems that he was blind to when they were a couple.

There are a finite number of objectives in your business that will take you where you want to go. There might be fifteen or fifty things that you need to accomplish to grow to your ideal end state.

These objectives might be things like:

  • Set focus or market limits.
  • Develop a good CVP.
  • Figure out where opportunities are in the market.
  • Etc. etc.

The challenge is that we’re blind to most of these objectives. We have ideas about what’s needed, but we don’t actually know.

What makes this even more challenging is that many people claim to know. There’s no shortage of recommendations. This leads to thinking like, “We don’t have enough customers… (problem) I heard that so-and-so got a ton of customers through cold outreach, I should do cold outreach (solution out of context).”

If you knew exactly what you needed to do, how would your work change? How would your motivation change?

There’s a huge difference between building a business and inventing a business. Building a business is about execution: doing what you know you need to do. Inventing a business is about innovation: experimenting with changes. The former leads to momentum, the latter to thrashing.

As entrepreneurs, we’ll always have a foot standing on the ground of innovation. But one of your priorities should be identifying what objectives matter, clearing away the mist of ignorance, and giving yourself eyes to see.

It sounds esoteric, but it’s simple. If you can’t define exactly what needs to change, then one of your objectives needs to be figuring that out. It should sound more like this, “We don’t have enough customers… I don’t know why. My next objective is to figure out why.”

Sometimes you have to innovate to answer these questions. But often the solution already exists in a competing business, the perspective of a mentor who has been there and done that, or in a customer interview.