The Pitfalls of Subjectivity in Startup Founding Teams

Discover the importance of evidence over opinion in startup founding teams with insights from a RISD and Y Combinator alum. This post delves into the common antidesign habit of basing decisions on subjective views rather than objective evidence. It contrasts the personal expression of art with the user-focused nature of design, advocating for a shift from "I think" to "It should be" to enhance product development and user satisfaction.

The Pitfalls of Subjectivity in Startup Founding Teams

Moving from 'I Think' to 'It Should Be'

I’m lucky enough to talk to 8-12 founders a day. One of the more unconscious antidesign habits I’ve observed among startup founding teams is the tendency to start sentences with "I think” rather than anchoring them in evidence with "It should be because [insert proof]…”. The phrase "I think" often stems from a subjective viewpoint akin to personal expression found in art. In contrast, grounding statements in evidence—"It should be because [followed by data, industry insights, customer interviews, etc.]"—is inherently objective and foundational to design thinking.

Art vs Design: Understanding the Difference

Art is for yourself, whereas design is for others. Subjectivity during the design process can cause unnecessary office politicking and increase the odds of a product falling short of what a user wants. If team members frequently begin with "I think" during startup product development, it suggests a need for deeper user research.

I share these insights as a RISD and Y Combinator alum with a decade of experience, including my founding product designer role at Imgur and NUMI Co-Founder. Hopefully, it’s a bit helpful as you start your founding journey :)

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