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Grin-Fucking: The Anti-Critique

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What happened next was something along the lines of 3 startup founders all trying to solve what could have been this idea’s biggest pitfalls.”

Hopefully people aren’t offended by the title of my post, I couldn’t think of a better way to phr… oh wait, nope – don’t care. People need to stop giving each other bullshit feedback and instead focus on giving each other useful feedback. This post will start with a personal example of me sucking at this, followed by a challenge and general proposal for all of you.

The Story:

The other night Justin and I were chatting with Alex Benzer in Boston about some fun side projects he was thinking through.

First, a bit of background. Though his youth may fool many, Alex has run a profitable company since 2007 down in LA, and sold his first technology company while in college.

He started by explaining once of his ideas and then in the customary startup fashion he paused and excitedly said, “So what do you guys think?” Justin and I both pretty quickly said something along the lines of, “Hmm, thats really interesting,” and began talking about the pieces that seemed truly interesting or exciting in the proposition.

For some reason what he said next really stuck with me– firstly because I hate it when people Grin Fuck each other and secondly because I tend to think I fall on the harsher side of constructive critical feedback rather than talking about ponies and rainbows that would never realistically pan out for someone.

Somewhere mid sentence he stopped us and said, “C’mon guys, be honest with me – I want to know what you really think.”

We reacted as though we were both consciously aware of our focus on the positive and immediately switched to the negative.

“How are you even going to get users to the platform?… The users that meet this criteria may very well not care about adding this service to their life…” etc., etc., the list started growing.

What happened next was something along the lines of 3 startup founders all trying to solve what could have been this idea’s biggest pitfalls. Our initial feedback was useless and misguiding, and while we weren’t lying when we said it was interesting, it was a way to avoid digging through the harder questions. Prior to bringing up the problems, our answers lacked action and added zero value for Alex.

But for some reason we still do it. We give lackluster, feel good feedback which ultimately build barriers to entrepreneurial growth rather than helping to remove them.

It takes a certain caliber of entrepreneur to see that happening and ask for the truth on the spot, but unfortunately the people need this honesty the most, lack the awareness to ask for it.

Validation is addicting, but having intelligent answers to the hard questions is more powerful than validation.

So here’s the challenge I’ve posed for myself, as well as all of you.

Next time someone asks you what you think of “X,” if you lead with something positive like “oh I like this part of it,” or even “wow this is awesome” try to throw in a “BUT” followed by a series of harder questions.

“Wow, I love that you’re building Pandora for anti-social cats, my cat totally needs this, BUT – why would cats switch from the regular Pandora to CatDora? How are you going to get this in front of them? You don’t really expect them to use their paws on a trackpad do you? A couple solid how’s and why’s can go a long way.

So make sure your compliment sandwich has some valuable shit in the middle before just giving them a bunch of fluffy carb-riddled white bread.

6 Comments Join the Conversation

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