Learning from Your Weaknesses

This is a post by Phil Coburn, Designli’s summertime marketing intern straight from his freshman year of college. Join Phil as he explores the ins-and-outs of the software industry and the world of startups, small business, and marketing.


There’s a lot of buzz around finding your strengths, your “unfair advantage” over your competition, that one thing that you can do that nobody else can. This is good advice, but learning your weaknesses can be just as important.


This might seem a little silly as, after all, recognizing your strengths requires a certain awareness of your weaknesses. And this is true. However, giving those weaknesses as much thought as you give to your strengths can benefit you as well.


I’ve been hearing a lot of the whole find your strengths advice; any high school or college student does. Every single time I told someone I’m in college, I got hit with the “so what are you majoring in?” and every time I had to reply that I didn’t know. Spoiler: I still don’t, but thinking about what I wasn’t good at helped me get closer to figuring it out than thinking about all the things I am good at has.


I’m a good macro learner. I pick up new things quickly, generally don’t need to be corrected on the same mistake more than once or twice, enjoy learning about new things, and tend to reach competency in a new task fairly quickly. The flipside, and the weakness that helped me get some clarity on where to look next, is that I’m a terrible micro learner. Details don’t bore me, but minutiae do.


So What?


Recognizing your and your business’s weaknesses can help guide you, as well. Knowing your strengths can too, of course, but knowing your weaknesses can give you more information to work with. If you know that you are weak in a particular area can help you steer away from it or be on the lookout for ways to break into that area in a way that emphasizes your strengths.


For example, look at how some of the larger tech companies behave. When they want to expand into a new space, their first move is normally to acquire a smaller company already operating in that space. A recent instance of this is Apple’s move to acquire Gliimpse, a health startup geared towards helping people access their health records in a quick and understandable manner. This acquisition makes a lot of sense for Apple: health tech is an area they’ve been looking at expanding into, and it’s an area they don’t have a lot of expertise in yet. Their solution is to acquire a company that does.


What You Can Do


Now as a startup, you likely don’t have the capital to simply acquire another company in order to expand your own business, but looking at new hires in a similar manner to how Apple or Google looks at startups it wants to acquire can serve a similar purpose. If there’s an area you’re currently weak in (lack of expertise or something similar) but is somewhere on your roadmap in the future, looking to hire an individual who has experience in both that sector and your current area of activity is a good way to both play to your strengths and recognize your weakness. However, once you do so, be sure to build in processes around that person’s newly perfected role so that you can fill the gap and not drop the ball if they happen to leave. Learn from them, but certainly do not lead by abdicating that responsibility!


After all, the purpose of identifying your company’s weaknesses is to avoid falling prey to them in the future. Being honest with yourself, identifying them, and working to rectify or plan around them is worth a few hours of consideration in the long run.