Tech trends and business ideas

All things that motivate entrepreneurs

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Glib v. Articulate

I normally don’t do business on Sundays. Today I made an exception. A team of enthusiastic startup entrepreneurs who wanted my time during last week could not be accommodated since I had a marriage in the family taking up most of my time. In the end I was certain that it was time well spent since they had worked on the idea thoroughly and had exercised their presentation very well.

What stood out was the composition of the team itself. While all three were sound in terms of their respective skill sets ( Technology, Marketing and Finance ), their conversation style was very diverse. Throughout the conference, the Finance guy hardly spoke. The Marketing guy was rattling out all the numbers in the spreadsheet ( I told you they had worked on the idea thoroughly ) and the Tech guy was pretty communicative too. I was about to conclude that these two would be the torch bearers the Finance guy came up with a couple of good insights after he heard the other two leaving out an important feature on the business model. That was the clincher why I took them under my wings.

It reminded me of the old debate Glib v. Articulate style of conversations. Which one’s better…? Often it's the glib talker who steals all credits.

Everyone is talented. Certainly not everyone is as talented as everyone else, but every individual has certain things they are good at, and certain things they suck at.

Sometimes, coming to a decision quickly is a result of the group momentum to make a quick decision, not necessarily due to the nature of the situation. Unless there are life threatening circumstances, very few decisions need to be made on the spot. A decision to rearchitect the database access for a given software product can probably stand a little think time.

This pressure to decide provides a ripe environment for your glib talkers.

One of the techniques I've used in the past is the “Lag-a-day”. It just meant the group breaks for a day and then reassembles to make the final decision. Lag-a-day could be called by anyone in the group whenever we were deciding from a slew of seemingly plausible options but where we felt we hadn't covered all of the aspects. If it felt like we were missing something, chances are we were. This gave people time to back away and think about what they were getting ready to do.

The beauty of this is that it reduces the first mover effect of the fast talkers. People get to take time to organize, digest and process. I found it also encouraged better problem solving techniques since people hate meeting a second time. By changing the pace of the process, you retain more control of the situation.

In the end, the rule saved us several times as people came back to the table with a changed perspective and were able to make better decisions.

I'd rather take the time to make a good decision once than to make three bad decisions quickly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be quick on the uptake which is definitely sexy.


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