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.

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