Confusing Cause and Effect

March 29th, 2012
[ General ]

I recently attended another Founders and Funders event in Toronto. It was a great event primarily because of who was in the room. Afterwards Jevon wrote about how you can change the ecosystem.

I wanted to pile onto Daniel, Jevon, and Ken’s thoughts around this. For me, part of this is about the risks in confusing cause and effect.

Cause: RIM, OpenText, Descartes, Maplesoft and a group of companies built successful technology based businesses in Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario.

Effect: A thriving technology community including strong universities and organizations like Communitech.

Cause: Joe Blow worked his ass off learning to play guitar growing up. He started playing friends basements with other friends. He went on to play gigs anywhere and everywhere he could. He drove around in a glued together van for years playing gigs in other cities.

Effect: Joe’s a rock star, literally, living the rock star life.

Cause: Your friend spends his early childhood playing AAA hockey, finishing with a ‘cup of coffee’ with an OHL team.

Effect: Your friend is a great hockey player with really nice equipment.

Here’s the point. Mix cause and effect at your own risk. Rarely, if ever, can they be reversed. Buying $700 skates won’t make you a great hockey player. Partying until the sun comes up every night of the week won’t make you a rock star. Building a U of W and a communitech in your city won’t get you successful technology companies(or will it?).

This mixing of cause and effect plays a massive role in product and business development. The obvious challenge is that cause and effect are often distant in time and space, and that only increases with the complexity of the particular system. It happens all too often that we latch onto the effects and build products around those, instead of digging deeper until we uncover the real causes. Focusing on replicating and scaling the causes, not the effects, in your product development strategy is key.

Oh, and back to community, as Jevon and the other founders suggested, focus on building a great company(cause) and the community(effect) will handle itself. While we are building an amazing community at ThreeFortyNine, it isn’t the focus, it’s the side effect. Our focus is making our member’s projects and companies the best they can be. The community just happens.