4 Types of Working Environments at Startups

High trust, debate-friendly is generally healthiest

Hey y’all — watching the debate on Thursday got me thinking.

Debate is critical to a startup.

Debates help us arrive at the truth.

But it’s not the only thing that matters for arriving at the truth.

This week I break down the 4 types of working environments that result from being debate-friendly or not, and another vector:

The 4 Types of Working Environments

There are two main vectors that determine company culture:

  1. Debate vs. politics

  2. High vs. low trust

High Trust Debating

This is the optimal working environment.

Founders need to be comfortable with conflict, because conflict is required to solve problems quickly.

You are not going to agree with those around you on everything — far from it.

A team that openly debates issues and decisions frequently

Granted, there’s a goldilocks zone — too much debate will actually slow you down, but a lack of debate will lead to poor decisions.

That’s why you also need high levels of trust among each other.

The most famous example of a high trust debating culture is Amazon’s “disagree and commit” value. They are willing to initiate debate and see it through without compromise.

The full value, from Amazon’s Leadership Principles, is:

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting.

Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion.

Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

They are able to do this because Amazon’s leaders don’t take disagreements personally. They trust that the other person is searching for the truth.

Low Trust Debating

This is where you start to get into trouble.

Become a member to join the community, get access to all 90+ deep dives, our founder accountability challenge, and fireside chats with experts.

I can also help your startup in a few other ways:


Grow your audience + generate leads with my growth service.


Share your round with hundreds of investors in my personal network.


Hire curated candidates from top startups and communities.


I’ll help solve a specific challenge you’re facing with your startup.

🚀 Advertise in my newsletter to get in front of 75,000+ founders.

Subscribe to Houck's Newsletter Premium to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Houck's Newsletter Premium to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
Full database of 70+ deep dives
Access to Houck's private founder community
Monthly digital workshops & IRL meetups
1:1 office hours with Houck

Join the conversation

or to participate.