Monday, April 25, 2011

China Bans Time Travel (it’s about time…)

On March 31, 2011, the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued guidelines that effectively ban television and movie plot lines that contain elements of “fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking.” Google translate makes this reliably readable in English (trust me).

CNN’s Eunice Yoon reports, “The government says…TV dramas shouldn’t have characters that travel back in time and rewrite history.” She goes on further to report that “They say this goes against Chinese heritage.” “They also say that myth, superstitions and reincarnation are all questionable.”…At last, conclusive evidence that the Chinese are still holding a grudge against NBC for not extending the 1982 TV sensation "Voyagers" to a second season…

Questions about restrictions on speech and expression in television and film aside, the fantasy of being able to meld time to suit our purposes isn’t a new storyline and no doubt will be a repeated plot line in stories for years to come. Often times, the premise of being able to “go back” or “go forward” is based on lessons that either weren’t learned (going back) or impatience to learning lessons in the future (going forward). Not surprisingly, the plot lines usually involve a stern warning about the impact of interfering with the course of time and events and some crisis that is narrowly averted in the “nick of time,” constituting the climactic turning point of the story.

The proverbial question is about what past decisions you would change or, better yet, if you knew then what you know now, how would it change the decisions you made? I suspect that there is equal division among those who would leave things as they are or those who go back and make different decisions.

What if, instead of going back to change time, a person had access to the resources to not have to ask “what if” somewhere down the road? I suspect that most people would be satisfied with the course of events as long as they had all the available information and tools necessary to make a decision.

So how does someone find the information that they need, the trusted advisor, the team of people who have “been there” and have “done that?” Will finding those people help prevent bad decisions or guarantee good decisions?

Such is the life of an entrepreneur.

Many entrepreneurs will develop a novel idea or disruptive technology based on an unmet or under-met need in the marketplace. Understanding how to move that idea from concept to market, where buyers willingly pay for it (we call it commercialization), is the challenge. Even seasoned entrepreneurs with deep industry experience won’t have solved all aspects of the commercialization chain. This is what makes an entrepreneur’s network of advisors so critical. Without exception, entrepreneurs who have the ability to go out and find a “team” of seasoned veterans, experts or pioneers who have gone down the same road before will be dramatically more likely to succeed than those who go it alone.

Also, consider the fact that in the United States, depending on how one defines failure, the failure rate for start-ups is 30-40% (companies that liquidate their assets and investors get no return on their capital) and up to 90-95% (if failure is defined as declaring a projection and then falling short of meeting it). Using either analysis, failure is common place for early stage companies. Preventing an “enterprise failure” may not be possible, but counsel from those who can help identify the right strategies for early stage companies may root out ideas that may ultimately fail due to a poor business structure, failure to understand the market or, in some cases, identifying innovation that is nothing more than a solution that is more expensive than the problem.

A critical tip for the burgeoning entrepreneur is to build an advisory board early with those people who have stormed the beaches before and understand the challenges of launching a new business. Experience, even tangential, will test aspects of your business and provide insight into potential scenarios about your product, your market, your competitive advantage, scalability and a host of other aspects to your business that may not otherwise be asked. Expect your advisors to provide sober analysis in each of their areas of expertise early in the process. Meet with them often and, if necessary, provide incentives for their valuable time. By having high expectations of them, they will in turn have high expectations for you. Doing so may prevent those “if only I had…” moments in the future. (but…since the Chinese have banned time travel, we may never know…)

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