Parrots & Eagles: An Ecosystem Parable
Winston Churchill was the lone voice of wisdom among a sea of amateurs and high profile neophytes.
In the political ecosystem leading up to World War II, this herd of inexperienced dilettantes was the epitome of all-talk-and-no-action. They were the very definitions of ignorance, indecision, and inaction — verbose spectators without any hands on experience — yet they dominated the conversation. nd nearly led their countrymen to the brink of extinction.
Churchill was drowned out by this sea of uninformed voices, as he proclaimed:
When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.
Have you ever noticed, in startup ecosystems, that the most IN-experienced are often the ones who seem to chatter the loudest?
Is your startup ecosystem jabbering with parrots? Are the eagles silent?
People often mistake the jabbering parrots as experts and leaders. Parrots jabber about the entrepreneurship rules they’ve just learned a few days earlier — with the authoritative voice of an expert.
They post social media missives like:
- 7 Big Mistakes I Made as an Entrepreneur with Zero Experience
- How I got funding with just one email and so can you.
- I just launched my company — here are the 10 rules of startup success.
- 6 lessons I learned from trying to sell my company
Most of these posts in the category of: “I won the lottery, so please read my book on how you can win the lottery too.”
At first, it’s a little comical to watch them spout rudimentary and naïve advice as if they just discovered the secret of fire. It’s charming when this advice is accurate, but the advice is usually so wrong that it’s dangerous — and then it’s repeated and propagated by parrots, as if it were fact.
You can usually spot these parrots, they come in 4 breeds:
- First-Timers and Wannabe-Entrepreneurs
… who are hyper engaged on social media. where everyone looks like they’re “killin’ it”
- Cut-and-Paste Gurus
… People who are trying to establish themselves as “thought leaders” -by reposting and pasting random [series of bullets — advice] — — you can tell by their staccato linkedin posts .. where quantity seems to trump quality.
- Faux-Community Leaders
… People who have never built a successful company. Their main qualification seems to be that they have lots of free time to “lead.” And they constantly use social media to maintain their presence as a “leader.”
- Charming Cheerleaders
… and well-meaning, well-wishers. Always wanting to be positive, they celebrate every post and piece of advice, giving encouragement and kudos to even the most trite Wannabes and Gurus.
Eagles in the Ecosystem
Eagles are the seasoned experts who really understand the hard-earned and hard-learned rules. They know what it really takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. But here’s the unexpected dilemma: Eagles are usually too busy to spend time countering and correcting the parrots.
When experienced leaders don’t speak up, the narrative is dominated by posers, dilettantes, armchair quarterbacks, and pseudo-experts. There’s a knowledge vacuum, an experience vacuum — and a credibility vacuum. The void is filled with whoever has the most time to post to Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.
Unfortunately, this leads us to a modern truism:
Whoever makes the most noise is the expert. Whoever posts the most frequently is the expert.
Of course this isn’t true. But in lack of smarter voices, how can you refute?
Eagles: Don’t Shut up. Step up!
We want startup ecosystems that benefit entrepreneurs; that make them better and make them more successful. If the ecosystem is dominated by wanabees, cut & paste gurus, faux leaders, and charming cheerleaders — how can the eagles contribute?
So, if you are indeed a seasoned entrepreneur or expert:
- Post, reply, comment — and call-out bad advice when you see it.
- Validate and reinforce good advice, solid ideas, products, and companies;
- and RISK — being seen as the curmudgeon — even if you have to be the first to say “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
Entrepreneurial leaders — are you a parrot or an eagle? Speak up, contribute and lead your ecosystem. Churchill did it, at the right time, and it changed the world. So can you.
CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. As an entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder of more than a dozen successful startup ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media, and communications products — that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.
He is the author of the bestselling “The Age of Metapreneurship — A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship.”
And the upcoming “The Startup Brain Trust — A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Mentors that Help them Become Great.”
Follow him @cjcornell or visit: www.cjcornell.com
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