The Abstraction Trap

Untamed curiosity might cause you trouble.

This post is part of a series on developing a healthy founder's mindset.

Consulting mainly consists of solving problems for clients. Few consultants would disagree with this statement. But founders are not aware of the toxic mindset which they often fall into: Getting obsessed with complex and abstract problems, rather than doing the straightforward and boring activities that you need to grow a consulting practice.

A classic example of how getting distracted with abstract problems can lead to trouble comes from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata:

In it, King Yudhishthira is presented with a dilemma: he must choose between a heavenly kingdom or a game of dice. Yudhishthira chooses the game of dice, and gets so absorbed in it that he eventually gambles away his kingdom and his brothers.

The story serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who is tempted to get too caught up in games and other distractions. It teaches us that it is important to focus on our necessary tasks and not be sidetracked by abstract problems.

I've met several founders who dived deep into research or IP work (such as new frameworks, proprietary methodologies, or highly technical whitepapers), only to find the firm in a tough financial situation a couple of months later.

They neglected their pipeline and business development tasks. They didn't spend enough time listening to their clients. And they've invested time and energy in working on problems nobody had.

This is especially common among bright and curious founders. They have an intrinsic fascination with everything new and different. And that can become a distraction from their role of leading and growing a consultancy.

Experienced consulting founders understand that this intellectual curiosity, if unrestrained, is dangerous for their practice.

Tomorrow I'll write about the other side of the coin - the constructive mindset that successful founders adopt to avoid getting distracted by new and shiny problems.

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