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Myth 2: You must be able to see into the future
It's not necessary to be able to develop the next big thing. Far better to master the details in the here and now.
By Josh Hyatt, Money Magazine senior writer

NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- What George H.W. Bush called "the vision thing" does indeed exist. Think about Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder who predicted in 1965 that chip processing power would double every two years. Or Bill Gates. Or the Amazing Kreskin, who claims only to be a "mentalist" but could probably do more.

Get the vision thing wrong, and you're dead. The only thing foretold by minicomputer magnate Ken Olsen's famous 1977 pronouncement, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home," was the decline of his company, Digital Equipment.

REALITY: Plenty of visionaries were and are firmly rooted in the present. Did Henry Ford invent the car? (Hint: No.)

Did Sam Walton invent discounting? (See earlier hint.)

In each case, they took what existed, saw the potential in figuring out how to make it better, and then slaved away on the details.

Tom Kinnear, executive director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan, refers to this pattern of action as "telescoping." Successful builders of businesses, whether they're on their own or in a corporate setting, can see the big picture well enough, but they succeed by mastering the little things.

"They pay attention to the smallest details, so they can answer any questions," says Kinnear. "They want to be sure they're getting it right."

Amy Domini didn't invent the mutual fund, but 15 years ago she saw an opportunity to mass-market socially responsible funds that appealed to investors who felt they couldn't put money into businesses they found morally objectionable. Today, Domini Social Investments manages nearly $2 billion in assets.

Once she launched the business, Domini says, she quickly developed "an intense interest in minutiae." Sure she fretted over the details of structuring a product for big institutions. That seems sensible. But she also analyzed the thickness of the firm's brochure paper and looked at thousands of samples of exotic fabrics to find a combination that could muffle the sound in her company's New York City headquarters.

"To build something, you have to fall in love with it," says Domini, 56. "Otherwise you might as well be a corporate cog."


Myth 1: You've got to have incredible charisma

Myth 2: You must be able to see into the future

Myth 3: You've got to stick to your guns, no matter what

Myth 4: You need to take big risks

Myth 5: You need a burning desire to get rich

Plus: Secrets of success from those who've made it Top of page

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