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Learning is not compulsory, nor is survival!
Anwar Jumabhoy | Learning

You have heard this before: According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. That’s a whopping 80% who crash and burn. Successful entrepreneurs tell us that even 20% of businesses that survive the first 18 months are not exactly the same as the one they started. 

The process of survival itself consists of continuous mutation of learning – experimenting, evolving, pivoting and changing in response to the environment. In fact, one could argue that the businesses that failed, failed due to not responding to market realities or to mutate in response to the changing environment. Or, in the case of businesses that were based on some erroneous premise (market size, competition, state of technology, the investment needed, support of investors…), when they eventually discover the harsh reality. As Edwards Deming wryly put it, “Learning is not compulsory, nor is survival”.

We all have different modes of learning, but most important for entrepreneurs, is to learn from experiments. Each iteration of a product, exchange with a potential customer, a paying customer, is a learning opportunity. Critical skills are the ability to listen, ask the right questions and collect relevant data. All this seems simple, but, as always, hard to do well. In this respect, entrepreneurs can learn a lot from IKEA – the “Learning” organization. 

Founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943 with 410 stores worldwide today. Their innovation started in 1956 when they invented flat packaging, first used for their Lovet table, which had detachable legs. IKEA has gone on to reinvent design and packaging for 12,000 products. Mastering the art of producing low priced quality home furnishings, IKEA reinvented the way mid-income families bought and used furniture, not to mention the appeal to value-conscious shoppers. After 60 years in business with a very transparent Business Frame, they still do not have a competitor. Why? As eloquently stated on the website: “We constantly ask: Is there a better way? That’s how the IKEA home furnishings offer remains unique and how we try to make everyday life better for the many people”. 

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