When my partner Vic and I decided to go all in (ie. full time) at Jumpstart Foundry a year and a half ago, we knew that we were not going to do what we had done for the previous five years. There was much to have learned from running one of the first accelerators in the country for five years, but there was also much there to hold us back. Certainly, we had to face the fear of what others would think as we started making some radical changes to our approach. But maybe more than that, we had to push each other to question the assumptions and biases that we had developed about “the way to do things”.

To help us with this process, before we really got started, we spent a full day with the brilliant team at Stoke.d who helped us to take a human centered approach to designing the next version of Jumpstart. One practice that has stuck with me since that day, was the inquisitive, childlike approach to innovative probing that taps right into the heart of limiting biases. Parker (one of the partners) and Brent would ask us questions that focused on things we believed had to be because we had done them that way for so long. And each question started with “How to”.

“How to help companies innovate without investing money in them?”

“How to manage a batch of investments without seeing them every day in a program?”

“How to not just teach, but partner intimately with the founders you invest in?”

I remember as each question was asked, a tiny explosion happened in my brain. Some limiting way of thinking was toppled and I was free to start thinking about Jumpstart in a brand new way. Since that moment, it has become a great focus of mine to try and keep an eye on when I say things like “that can’t work” or “it has to be this way”. That usually is a signal of limited thinking.

So much innovation happens with this childlike, imaginative approach. The truth is, we all have developed ways of thinking. They are patterns. They have rules. They have limits.

Much of the value that is to be created in the market will happen at the intersection of disciplined execution and childlike imaginative thinking.

Right this moment, the Jumpstart team is working on a new initiative. It’s something that we believe has significant strategic value, but also can’t be done as similar things like it have been done in the past. We must be centered on the value we provide to our customer, and simultaneously be daring and imaginative in our approach. Somehow, I think if you’re trying to bring something new and innovative to the market, the same is true for you.

To the child in all of us… and the grind,

Marcus

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