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This article was published on May 31, 2010

Which rules are you going to break?

Which rules are you going to break?
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

The No. 1 rule when dealing with disaster is to figure out which rules you need to break. The quote on the right here is from retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré who commanded the military response to Hurricane Katrina. He wrote a commentary for CNN on how to deal with the BP Oil Spil. He argues that “rules are designed for when everything is working” and that when there is an emergency it is counterproductive to follow the rules. You will have to break them, ignore them or bypass them.

This week I did a presentation on Entrepreneurship for a group of students. I talked about my experience as an entrepreneur, the mistakes I made, the money I lost and the stuff I learned. During the break a student came up to me and started off his questions with “I disagree with most of what you said”. He proceeded to ask me on my opinion about crowd sourcing and I explained to him that I thought it was a popular thing to be engaged with but had some of the qualities of cold fusion: sounds great in theory but hasn’t really panned out for anybody.

Now before you skip straight to the comments section to give me 100 examples of successful crowd sourcing projects let me explain a bit more: most crowd sourcing projects are really just market research projects or systems for finding one talented guy or girl. That hardly qualifies as crowd sourcing.

You could say that Open Source software Development is a form of Crowd Sourcing and there were some pretty successful companies there. I agree.

The kind of crowd sourcing that I’m critical about is the fabled “We will let our audience design everything because their collective intelligence must be greater than ours”. Design by committee is not something I believe in so when someone comes up to me who wants to ‘connect companies with their users to generate better ideas” I get very cynical.

Anyway, I spoke to this guy about all of this and then gave him my card. The next day I received a long email with a point by point reply to all of my reasons for not liking Crowd Sourcing projects. The guy, obviously, is involved with a Crowd Sourcing start-up.

History is filled with people like me with opinions and proof of what can and can’t be done. History is also full of stubborn entrepreneurs proving those people wrong. Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

My advice to anybody would always be: never listen to people who say that something doesn’t work, is impossible or against the rules.
Nobody thought Twitter would work, until it did.
Nobody believed Search was a viable business until Google showed us it was.

As George Bernard Shaw said:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Go out and break the rules, be unreasonable and go against the grain and think about it: which rules are you going to break?

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