Most people wouldn’t associate the word “play” with “trust”. At Boulder BITS we do, and here is why. Lack of trust changes human behavior completely. One of the reasons kids can play so well with others is an inherent trust they possess. As soon as that trust is lost, the play stops. If you don’t trust the other people around you, it is very hard to play openly with them. For good entrepreneurs, innovative work is play. So, lack of trust gets in the way of creating a scalable business.
At Boulder BITS we value creativity very highly. To promote creative collaboration, we encourage entrepreneurial play. This is why we’re building the concept of a “PlaySpace” into Boulder BITS. It’s a way to quickly gauge trust and quality of team play. In short, we put some awesome entrepreneurs into a room for a day – our PlaySpace – and pepper them with fun tasks, mentors and challenges related to a single project. At the end, they are responsible for pitching a brand new company in front of an audience. We then ask each team member if they want to continue working with each other, working on the project and working with Boulder BITS. If the answer is no to any of the above, only a day was wasted. If the answer is yes, we may proceed with collaborative play on the project.
Types of Trust
Trust comes in many forms. For entrepreneurs, I focus on the following three types of trust.
Proficiency: Can we trust that you have the skills to do your job? Not being able to trust your partner’s skill level will kill your startup.
Reliability: Can we trust that you will do what you promise? If not, we’ll be forced to look over your shoulder constantly, which will kill your startup.
Teamwork: Can we trust that our communication and collaboration styles will mesh? If we can’t communicate, we can’t trust each other. If we can’t collaborate, we don’t belong on the same team.
Filtering for Trust
Filtering through thousands of possible candidates to find three outstanding entrepreneurs that are right for a single project is a ridiculous process. That is why we only take on people that come with ridiculously strong recommendations from awesome entrepreneurs. We ask experienced founders to only recommend other experienced founders who they’d jump at the opportunity to work with. If they wouldn’t “jump at the opportunity,” they shouldn’t make the recommendation. This process filters for proficiency and reliability. Because of the filtering process, our entrepreneurs are self-aware, find value in sharing truth and trust that the other team members are competent and dependable. This shortens the time for building trust among the team.
Filter for Passion
Passion helps people push through hard times. At some point, every entrepreneur has that horrible, gut-wrenching day that makes them want to throw in the towel. Passion for their job helps them push through to success. So, we only assign entrepreneurs to a project when they are Passionate with a capital P. In the right collaborative environment, the team’s passion keeps building. However, if the team doesn’t trust in the project’s future, the passion will fail. This is why Boulder BITS hammers on problem-solution validation even before forming the team. We spend lots of time identifying and vetting the most scalable projects. As a result, our entrepreneurs trust us to fan the flames of their passions, when we put them on a team.
The Right Foot
Many people think that planning and pitching a new startup in a grueling day of learning, refining, planning, arguing and executing sounds like hell, not play. It’s a very challenging day that tires everyone out. The cool thing is that fun can be tiring, challenging or even painful sometimes. I’m always exhausted after a day of skiing. Steve Juntunen, our CEO for CubSpot, enjoys boxing despite an occasional rib cracking. Thousands of people go through hackathons, Startup Weekends, and startup forming projects like 10.10.10 every year. If people have a good time despite the challenges, you know they have the startup mindset. Every day in an early-stage startup has its challenges. Every member of the team must constantly learn, refine, plan, argue and execute, so we might was well make it playful.
The Playful Experiment
We’re still pretty early on in our experimentation with the PlaySpace concept. We have great feedback and we’re adjusting the process as we go. I can’t wait until the next one. We are honored that our entrepreneurs trust us enough to play and learn together. It’s so cool that our mentors want to participate again. So far we’re overjoyed with the outcome. But only time will tell if we can repeatedly play startups into existence in a day…
- Transparency By being more open and admitting mistakes and sharing difficult news, you become more connected to the people you’re working with. (Firstround.com)
- Be confident: The values-based entrepreneur recognizes the importance of having true self-confidence — knowing what you know and what you don’t know. True self-confidence allows you to recognize the uniqueness of your proposition so that you can sell it with confidence and authenticity to customers (Harry M. Jansen Kramer)
- Trust and Creativity- Fear of making a mistake is the biggest killer of creativity. How can you do something that has never been done without sounding silly when you first describe it? You need to have the confidence to be able to explore any idea, no matter how crazy, because that is where the creative solutions will come from. You need to be open to all possibilities without fear of judgement. (Adrian Hanft)
Author: Jesse Lawrence
Founder and CEO of @Boulder_Bits also a Sci-fi lover, game theory strategist, and idea generator