Business is NOT Common Sense

Business is NOT Common Sense

Yes, business is NOT common sense.

I can think of at least a dozen different situations in business where following common sense wisdom wouldn’t help.

In fact, doing what “makes sense” is much more likely to lead to your frustration and often failure as an entrepreneur.

Don’t believe me?

Here are a few common sense ideas off the top of my head that can and do kill online businesses…

  • “The entrepreneur who works the longest hours will be the most successful.” (Actually, the opposite is true. Entrepreneurs who work the least tend to earn the most.)
  • “If you’re not successful with a task, keep at it until it works.” (Again the opposite is true. If something isn’t working, it’s time to change… not continually fail.)
  • “I’ll just copy what the most successful guys do.” (Following a mentor is one thing, but blindly copying others’ business strategies is NEVER the answer.)

This is why so many entrepreneurs struggle. They believe they can build and grow a business doing what “makes sense.”

Take that one step further, and many entrepreneurs don’t even know why they want to start a business in the first place…

Eight Questions that Prove that Business
is Not Common Sense

Below are eight questions that I often ask my clients.

It’s the eight questions that you need to answer if you want to build and grow an online business.

  1. Q: Why are you doing Internet Marketing?
  2. Q: Why are you building a business?
  3. Q: What will it look like when it’s finished?
  4. Q: What elements will it compete on?
  5. Q: What will be your competitive advantage?
  6. Q: How will you deliver your promise?
  7. Q: How are you going to run the business?
  8. Q: How will you break-free of the business?

Not easy questions are they? Certainly not the kind of questions you can answer with standard common sense.

Not surprisingly, most people don’t know how to answer these. But that doesn’t stop them from starting online businesses.

If you want to get ahead, you need to know how to answer these kinds of questions.

You have to be able to address problems that will arise in your business in a completely new ways that go against the commonplace wisdom.

I call this “being counterintuitive.”

Great Businesses Are Born from
Counterintuitive Ideas

Being counterintuitive is an approach to solving a problem or running a business that runs counter to conventional thinking.

For example, a counterintuitive idea might be “grow skinny by eating fat” or “build your business by thinking INSIDE the box.”

It’s worth noting that the best business ideas and models are all grown out of counterintuitive ideas.

For example, you may know that I work with the largest direct mail company in the world, Agora.

Agora’s entire business model goes against the obvious, common sense wisdom.

Common sense says to remain the #1 in the world, you would have to continually update your business model to include all the latest technology online, social media tactics, traffic ideas, direct mail strategies etc.

But instead, Agora does what they’ve always done: They hire and train the best copywriters in the world. Then they rely on their “big idea” pieces of copy to sell their products.

That’s their counterintuitive business model that’s worked for over 30 years.

Agora isn’t alone. If you look at the most successful companies in the world, you’ll see that they made counterintuitive decisions along the way. (Think Apple, Facebook, Google, Toyota etc.)

How to Find Counterintuitive Ideas

I know what you’re thinking… “That’s great for the big-name companies, but how do I find counterintuitive ideas like this for my business?”

I’m glad you asked.

A few years back, I created a 5-step strategy to help you find counterintuitive solutions and ideas for your business.

It’s a way to STOP using traditional common sense, and start finding solutions to your business problems yourself that go against the conventional wisdom.

Here’s how it works…

  1. Start by taking a problem your business is facing, or one of my questions above like “What will be your competitive advantage?”
  2. Make a list of as many conventional, every-day, solutions to this problem or question as you can.
  3. Then brainstorm as many ideas as possible that contradict those commonplace solutions you just came up with.
  4. Look at your unconventional list: Which unconventional ideas are most likely to work? Which ideas do you want to test first?
  5. Choose one of those unconventional ideas and try it. See if it works for your business. You may just come up with an entirely new business model.

That’s just one way to use counterintuitive ideas. I’ll be back soon with more thoughts on how to use counterintuitive solutions in your business.

A few questions before I go…

  1. Q: Do you find it’s difficult to answer those eight questions I posed above? If so, why?
  2. Q: Do you already use counterintuitive ideas to tackle problems in your business? How so?

As always, I’d appreciate it if you could answer in the comments. Speak to you soon.

14 thoughts on “Business is NOT Common Sense”

  1. Rich – LOVE the 8 questions… That will keep my mind occupied for a while.  But honestly, the final two questions are the ones that strike home.  Ouch!

  2. Great post Rich. I find some of those questions tough to answer. For example: competitive advantage. Selling a weight loss book, the competition is crazy high – making paid ads (I tried google PPC, Yahoo bing, Facebook ads) really expensive. I simply cannot (yet) make the numbers work.

    I thought that going for paid ads (versus shooting for free traffic like everyone else) would be a legitimate way to make it work. For now, it isn’t working so it’s time to turn on the creative powers and come up with something unconventional to create partnerships and JVs…

    Any thoughts on how to do that?

    • Thanks for the kind words. As far as “how to sell a weight-loss book,” I have a quick tip for you from Pete Williams’ ProfitHacks program. 

      Rather than spending time and money on paid traffic, Pete recommends simply publishing your book on multiple platforms where your potential clients are already visiting. In places like Amazon, Nook, Kindle, iBooks, Audible etc where traffic already exists. In his program, he explains how to publish on these sites within hours. 

      Hope that helps. 

  3. So true. I learned this idea of considering the opposite of common sense a few months ago from something my brother wrote. And I found it useful to apply to any of the “rules” that people teach.

    For example, people talk about how important it is to do great customer service. But what if the opposite were true? Or, what would have to be true in order for the opposite to be true? If your product was so easy to use that you almost never had to do customer support, then great customer support would be much less important to your success. So maybe the best place to focus is on improving ease of use rather than improving customer service. (That’ll vary from product to product, of course).

    Common sense isn’t necessarily wrong – it’s just not the whole picture. And sometimes it’ll distract you from your best opportunities.

  4. Hi Rick, I like your thinking, I run an Online Marketing Business which I bought a year ago, but we are just doing what all the others in the market are doing, you have reminded me to review how we operate, many thanks, Steve. Bristow- CEO Online Marketing. Net ltd

  5. This is exactly how to refreshen your thinking. The 8 questions really got me considering things in new ways. 

    I especially like the question that asks what your business will look like when it’s finished. I always thought businesses evolved and adapted themselves to the conditions of the marketplace. Why do we need to know what it will look like when it’s finished?

    • Quick answer: Because then you’ll have an idea of what a successful business really looks like for you. What it would take for your business to be “finished” in the sense that it has achieved your goals. 

  6. Hi Rich.

    I must say I really like the way that you think. I have been studying a lot of what I think has been revolutionary learnings for years, and yet you still consistently surprise me with very simple, cool, yet practical questions and solutions! Just wanted to say thank you!

    Best regards,
    Christo van Zyl

  7. Thanks Rich for this article. Its all true! I want to start an online business but frankly I have never considered those questions. This will be a very good exercise. Overall, I’m going to focus on finding what can be the counterintuitive offer I will have on the natural Aloe vera cares and supplements market, where a great customer service is the conventional  advantage.

  8. Well said, Rich. Conventional wisdom is for conventional people. Being conventional is boring. I’m not going to buy your product if it’s exactly like this other one only from a much less known name. Unconventional ideas make unconventonal products and services that are unique.

  9. Wow, yet another great post, Rich! Each time I read what you write I gain another way of thinking about my business.

    I think you’re eight questions are difficult to answer, but I can see how they’re critical for me to consider their answers in order to work more intelligently and with purpose. The main question that they all seem to suggest is “what is the point of what you are doing?”

    I know that I could be thinking in more counter-intuitive ways than I am, but I know that I am thinking counter-intuitively when it comes to restructuring my approach because even though I’m learning from examples of others, I’m trying to fit what I’ve learned into a model that’s appropriate for my product and market.

    Looking forward to trying to answer these questions, as well as what you’ll share in the future!


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