We're surrounded by changing knowledge. From what's nutritious and what's not, to the current state of our scientific knowledge, to even facts about the world, such as what is state-of-the-art technology and even how many billions of people there are on the planet, there is a great deal of change in the facts around. But beneath all of this flux and change there are certain rules and regularities. And I explore how to understand this in my new book The Half-Life of Facts. And as I discuss in a short essay, there are lessons in this for the entrepreneur:
When trying to break into a new market, develop a new product and grow a company, you can’t operate with outdated statistics. It's fine to quote an obsolete population size for a city at dinner, or reference an overturned research study to impress someone at a party. But when your business is dependent on understanding the facts, you can't rely on outdated knowledge.
So what can business owners do to be prepared for the changing facts around us? Well, simply put, don’t view education as a stage of our lives, relevant only when we are young. Rather, education is a stance we must take toward the world, along with a recognition that what we know is constantly changing. As the world continues to change rapidly, and generate exponentially growing information, view learning as an integral part of your life, rather than a youthful indiscretion.
Medical schools now teach their students that a significant portion of what they learn will be obsolete soon after they graduate. My grandfather, who learned the wrong number of human chromosomes in school, could have been served well by this information. And the same sort of advice should be given to entrepreneurs: that you must constantly be ready to change, because the facts you are operating with are changing around you.