(By Gil Gerretsen) Centuries ago, European explorers thought they might find a better and more profitable way to reach Asia by sailing west. As they began their quest, they possessed a few rudimentary tools to help them navigate, but for the most part, they were pure explorers with no idea of what lay ahead. They encountered many unexpected obstacles and many perished in the process. The wrecks were often unrecorded. If they survived and made it back home, few were able to sail the same course twice.

In time, however, a growing body of shared knowledge and experience led to a remarkable transition. The need for true explorers faded and they were replaced by increasingly skilled navigators. Rather than guessing about the best route to a desired destination and result, navigators were able to transform ocean travel from a dangerous undertaking to an increasingly safe proposition. That, in turn, led to great riches for those who took full advantage of that knowledge.

In like manner, ambitious entrepreneurs have historically been guided by explorer-style guesswork and whims. Each person had to figure it out for themselves. All previous knowledge, and all progress in the business, was a closed book. Their actions were often based on what they "saw in the stars" and in response to constant changes in the wind. They rarely succeeded, and when they did it was a long roundabout course. If they crossed paths, one explorer tried to help another explorer when they could, but the lack of predictable navigational tools and processes most often meant that one entrepreneur’s guess on the proper course was not much better than another person’s.

In time, however, entrepreneurs started pooling their knowledge and experience, thereby building wider understanding of the tools and processes that improved the likelihood of success. They no longer had to deal with unproven theories and opinions, but could take advantage of well-proven, universal principles and established techniques that are reasonably exact. The growing body of knowledge provides a working framework that greatly reduces the risk of entrepreneurial shipwreck.

Today, the modern entrepreneurial compass of insight and accurate knowledge directs the shortest, safest and cheapest course to any destination. Entrepreneurs must learn and master scientific business wisdom as they launch and undertake their journeys. There are no absolute certainties as each person sails their ship on the economic seas of our society, but the odds of success and prosperity have improved exponentially. Only those who ignore the resources and insights at their fingertips remained at high risk.