SaaS Economics Blog

    No uninspired compromises

    by Brad Coffey

    No Uninspired Compromises

    One truth I've found about startups as they transition to become growing companies is that decisions tend to get tougher - not easier.

    I attribute this to the fact that for any sufficiently novel or innovative idea - someone is going to think it's terrible.  If no one thinks it's terrible - then it's really not that good.  And the math behind that at even a small scale can be astounding.

    Lets say for your brilliant idea there is only a 20% chance someone in the room thinks it's terrible.  So if you tell one person - there's a 80% chance you'll move forward with.  Pretty good.  But as the number of people in that room grows, the odds of everyone agreeing to the idea gets bad. Fast.  By 5 people there is only a 33% chance that brilliant idea will move forward, by 20 there is only a 1% chance everyone in the room will agree it's awesome.  1% - that's it.

    What happens then, at most companies, is that to get any idea pushed through they settle on uninspired compromises.  They dilute their brilliant ideas down to something everyone can agree on, and lose all the magic and inspiration from that original idea.   It makes sense, it's the only way to get everyone in the room to agree.  It's just also path to bad management.

    So at HubSpot we have a policy:  No uninspired compromises. 

    We do our best not to let ourselves fall into this trap, and we do a couple of good things to avoid that mistake.

    1. Give teams goals, and the autonomy to hit those goals.  Don't legislate the process - only the end results
    2. Keep teams small. Don't let the room get too large so people can make decisions and move forward.
    3. Identify a DRI (designated responsible individual).  That person owns the decision, not the entire room.  This is critical for cross functional decisions.
    4. Require transparency. Hold people accountable to these decisions by reviewing the success of the decision, and then keep iterating.
    Brad Coffey

    Written by Brad Coffey