Written by Ipek Hizar
As a psychologist by training, I`ve been studying the human mind and behavior for the past
years. Based on multiple papers I have been reading, I am aware of the negative effects of
ambiguity and uncertainty on human psychology. Too much ambiguity is linked to stress and
leads to discomfort and there seems to be general agreement among psychologists on
human preference toward environments one can easily make sense of. It was not until I
started working with entrepreneurs that I needed to reconsider my learnings on humans
seeking unambiguous environments.
How could it be true that some people were actively willing to engage with uncertainty?
Initially, I thought that money would be their primary motivation. Nevertheless, I have met so
many entrepreneurs over the years who are passionate about finding solutions to the
pressing challenges we collectively face in today’s world. So there had to be more to it.
Fascinated by this, I signed up for Dr. Jamie Jones’ New Ventures Development class to
walk in the shoes of an entrepreneur for one semester.
Entrepreneurship is not only about starting a business. It is also about navigating in a highly
uncertain environment and de-risking your actions along the way. This is extremely powerful
as this not only applies to being a successful entrepreneur but also to navigating uncertainty
in real-life situations. Also, by providing tangible tools on how to learn in highly uncertain
environments, the lessons of this class help us become lifelong learners.
One of my biggest learnings has been the importance of understanding the problem your
idea is solving, and whose pain point your idea is solving. For me, this is the core principle of
entrepreneurship: thinking out of the box and generating ideas is not enough to be an
entrepreneur, you need to fundamentally understand the environment you want to be
operating in. This is a journey and it is all about learning. Generally speaking, humans are
prone to validating their own concepts through their actions, susceptible to perceiving the
world through heuristics and systematic biases their minds have shaped over time. The
principles I have mentioned help you overcome this problem: You learn to iterate in a highly
uncertain environment by testing your pre-shaped assumptions through validated learning.
By designing tests and running these, you learn new things, build on these, and measure
again. This is how you de-risk your business while taking small steps which eventually lead
to long-term success. These strategies prevent you from falling into the trap of your own
biases along the way.
There was another question that I wanted to find answers to while walking in the shoes of an
entrepreneur: What happens if things do not work as initially planned? What happens when I
fail? This is the most exciting part. It turns out that failing is not a bad thing as long as you
learn from it. The sooner you fail, the better you are equipped for your business. You actively
create space for change as you are saving time from repeating things that do not work. To
achieve this, you need to listen to feedback, integrate it into what you already know, and
change fast. Meaningful pivots along the way are necessary as long as they are concluded
from your learnings. Being confronted with the fact that one’s own view could be wrong is not
always easy, but it is an essential skill you need to learn in order to survive as an
What does this all mean and how does it relate to being a lifelong learner? Most of what we
know today will be wrong many years from now. This phenomenon is also referred to as the
half-life of knowledge, which states that any given fact will halve in its validity after some time
has passed. Updating our beliefs when presented with evidence and new arguments is the
most important skill humans will need to obtain in today’s world. This is a prerequisite for
being a lifelong learner. Here is where some of the most important takeaways from this class
come into play. Entrepreneurs provide us with tools on how we could learn while trying to
make sense of the highly uncertain world around us. They teach us how to test our beliefs
along the way and continuously update our knowledge. It is about learning how to shift our
perspective to identify what we are not yet seeing.
Entrepreneurship is not only about starting a business. It is a continuous learning practice. It
is about seeking evidence we can build on, not facts. You will start a whole new learning
journey by attending this class.