My favorite color is blue.
I really enjoy eating at Chipotle.
Inception is one of my favorite movies.
Those are all facts. They can’t be argued. The reason is because they are all relative to myself and my own opinions. Let me reword those three statements and see how we can make it a bit more controversial:
Blue is the best color.
Chipotle is the best food chain.
Inception is the best movie of all time.
See? Those cannot be proven as facts and any argument is futile because they are based on opinions.
I try to remember this principle as often as possible in the business world. And more importantly, as I tried my best to run my last company, I really hope that my team understood this principle.
In business, and especially in the corporate world, I’ve learned that it’s less about who’s right and who’s wrong and more about the opinions of those entrusted to make decisions. (Barry Bonds-like asterisk: **That statement only works if you consistently work with competent, forward-thinking people who you also trust.**)
At Ancestry, I am quite literally surrounded by incredibly intelligent co-workers that I know and trust. This makes it easy for me because I can absorb information going into a decision, hear arguments from different parties and different data pools, and then ultimately come to a decision. But the honest truth is that from beginning to end, every single step is primarily based on opinions, even if they’re opinions derived from data. Here is a basic, but important, example that explains my thought process:
Logo / Branding
In mid-2014 there were just 4 of us at my last startup, which was called Plus11. In fact, we weren’t even Plus11, we were [Needs to be Branded]. We wanted to pick a company name that didn’t lock us into technology, apps, or really anything at all. Once we had decided on Plus11 as a name, we needed a brand and a logo. Our Creative Director, who I knew well and trusted as a proven designer, presented a bunch of logo options for us to mull over. We picked a certain style and narrowed it down to a board of fine-tuned options. Here’s what we had as far as options:
We picked our favorite style (2nd one down on the left) and moved forward to nail down a final version of our logo.
When talking over colors, we talked about what different colors meant and why one would be good vs the other, but ultimately the color choice came down to my obsession with light blue. I love light blue. Dillon had no strategic or design-driven argument against light blue. Thus, decision made. (This doesn’t mean an opinion is ALWAYS right. I doubt a maroon/brown/pea green combo color would have been a solid brand choice, but that’s where the caveat of having a team you trust comes into play.)
We finally ended up with this logo for Plus11:
Right now, a handful of you are totally validating my entire blog post. You’re looking at our final logo, reviewing the previous image of all our options, and you’re opinionating to yourself about which one you liked better and why. And great, good for you. You’re right! Your opinion is right. The problem is that it just wasn’t your decision to make, and if that principle is understood, feelings can’t get hurt, arguments can’t even start, and everyone walks away with their chin up, ready for the next collaborative decision-making process.
In order for me to make Minesweeper-like decisions on a day-to-day basis, I rely on the opinions of those around me to get us to a win-win starting point. I know I often make decisions that people don’t agree with, and that I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I have complete confidence in my opinions and complete confidence in the opinions of those around me, and that is the ultimate recipe for (hopeful) success.
The blog post you just read is 100% factual and is not based on any opinions whatsoever. Please consider this as startup doctrine, any argument is futile.