There’s a new breed of entrepreneur that believes you need to suspend the need to know everything before you make a move -- whether it be a new business, a relationship or a crazy idea. It’s a twist on the ‘ignorance is bliss’ cliché where ‘not knowing’ could be your biggest asset.
In some circles, it’s known as ‘bumbling.’
Author and digital marketing strategist Bernadette Schwerdt is a big believer in the art of ‘bumbling.’ Her latest book ‘Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs’ documents the success stories of Australia’s top online entrepreneurs. Schwerdt told The Huffington Post Australia many successful businesspeople do not have a business plan, they just bumble along until, somehow, it all works.
“Bumbling plays a large role in success. It’s all about the art of getting started. If you want to make something from nothing, you’ve got to get good at bumbling. When we start something new that’s important to us, we are all clumsy, awkward and inefficient. But we must embrace the art of bumbling so we can achieve the stuff of dreams," Schwerdt said.
Author Bernadette Schwerdt. Picture: Supplied
“When I interviewed Australian entrepreneurs for my book, I thought they’d have a meticulous business plan in place. But, instead, I discovered most of them bumbled. A great example is Paul Greenberg, the co-founder of online retailer, Deals Direct. He’d been chatting to a stranger in a coffee shop who suggested Greenberg sell one of his vintage guitars on a new website called eBay.”
“He put his guitar up for sale and then he sold anything he could get his hands on; beds, blankets, bicycles and so on. In one year, he became eBay Australia’s biggest seller. Then he set up Deals Direct and that became the first online department store in Australia and he disrupted the entire the retail industry. In January, Deals Direct launched on the stock exchange, valued at $100 million. And Paul admitted that he ‘bumbled.’"
But does bumbling pay? It’s basically a creative process that takes us from confusion to clarity. Schwerdt said bumbling is a set of concrete actions: discovery, examining, questioning, trying, testing, getting it right, getting it wrong, throwing it all out and starting over until you find something that makes sense. She explains it all in her TedX talk.
“Another great bumbling example is Jodie Fox, from Shoes of Prey. She had a passion for shoes but had problem feet and couldn’t find shoes to fit her. She went to Hong Kong and had shoes custom made for her and then realised that her friends also wanted custom-made shoes. It was after talking to people about her idea with people who had experience in management that saw the business start and take off."
Schwerdt, who is also the director of the Australian School of Copywriting, used the concept of bumbling in her own career.
“I’d been working in copywriting for many years and, while I still love my work, I wanted something extra. So I thought about what I love to do. I love interviewing people. Then I took that thought and fine-tuned it to say ‘I love interviewing online entrepreneurs.’ So I phoned Rick Chen, the founder of Pozible and asked if I could interview him on camera. Once I had Rick onboard, other people wanted to come onboard and, before I knew it, I had developed a six-part TV Series for Fairfax."
“So, because I bumbled with one foot in front of the other, just getting momentum, all these things came together; the TV series and the book. I truly believe in my own concept."
As with most things in life, Schwerdt believes the hardest part is just taking that vital first step.
“I’m a big believer that you have to test your idea and get market feedback. For me, it might be putting on a course. Instead of having it in my head, I’d hire a library room and promote it through Tafe and put it on for three weeks to see if anybody turns up. If they do, you’ve got a business."
"If you get one or two customers, you’ve got a business. A lot of people think you need a large amount of people but you don’t. You must have a prototype or something you can show people; a video, or a t-shirt. If you don't have a prototype, you’ve got nothing. But if you’ve got something to show and people say, 'I like it', you’ve got something to work on. You've got nothing to lose by putting it out there."