One of the challenges entrepreneurs have is selling customers and investors on something which, by and large, isn’t built yet. Sometime ago, I joked with an investor, that investors prefer to invest in people who are delusional. Someone who “knows” that they really can go make something happen (even though any rational analysis reveals just how much is still entirely unknown). We ended up agreeing that the best CEO’s are “Resiliently Delusional” — Able to believe they are going to make something happen, but then when they discover something that proves their original perspective wrong, able to find the new direction that again fills them with confidence to drive toward success. Of course, being able to see that your original view is not valid, takes a person who is not stubbornly arrogant. Unfortunately, distinguishing whether the delusional person you are talking to can do this, is non-trivial.
I recently came across this study which indicates that people do look for delusional people, or perhaps people who are just cocky, to follow. Humans Prefer Cockiness To Expertise
One of my friends, reworded my thought as: “People like delusions that they can share”. In a world of uncertainty, we want to find someone that seems to know what they are doing (even if our rational mind tells us that there is no way they could truly be that confident). This is as much true of the CEO as it is for politicians. Everyone is unsure of exactly what will happen in the future, but we all believe that there is someone out there who is able to see more than we can. Thus, we ought to be wary of confidence as a source of trust.
Nevertheless, someone that is “Resiliently Delusional” (able to drive confidently, correct when they are wrong, and keep driving), are indeed very good people to invest in. However, if they are simply delusional and arrogant, they can run you headlong into a wall.