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Cultivating Spreadsheets May 9, 2012

Posted by Jason in Management.
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I’ll note right off that this is a somewhat dubious reference.  The review isn’t exactly begging for you to go out and grab the book, and the author’s credentials seem, shall we say, less than shining.  Nonetheless, the brief mention that it gets contains a great nugget of wisdom.  And even if the author did plead guilty to fraud, there is something to learn from even the most glorious failures.

In this case, the wisdom applies not just to entrepreneurial startups but to any business or academic environment in which there is a risk of not paying attention to the “real world”.

The reference points out that entrepreneurs need “hunters” rather than “farmers” to go forth and seek success rather than wait for it to grow at their feet.  There is a clear parallel to anyone who spends hours on analysis, spreadsheets, and powerpoint decks – if you spend too long in your chair, secluded from the rest of the organization, your farming will not yield the success you may intend.

Sure, you’ll have the shiniest, most elegant excel charts.  Your powerpoint will be the envy of Bill Gates himself.  Your presentation would awe even the TED conference.

For nothing.

Or, at least, not providing the value in proportion to the effort that you spent to perfect that last 20%.  Success is more about “good enough”.  And if you let the cobwebs grow around your feet as you while away the day at your computer, the world is passing you by and people are getting things done without your help.

Like any good computational tool, the excel world provides you with a nice, tidy box for each piece of data.  It’s gratifying to turn those faceless numbers into a picture  that explains your case and persuades your audience.  But if you don’t know your audience – if you haven’t connected with them in real life – it will be very difficult – if not impossible – to produce the ideal supporting chart.  Hunt down success in the form of meetings and face-to-face communication.  Farming is only good if you’re growing food.

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