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Ensure only the Best Ideas Win for your Startup

How frustrating is it to contribute to a work discussion only to be shut down because your idea did not come from the “correct” contributor? And by “correct” contributor, I’m talking about the highest ranking individual in the room. I’ve seen it happen many times - both to myself as well as to colleagues across various teams and scenarios. Because of this, I have made a very explicit effort to ensure that the best ideas win within my startup team - regardless of who brings those ideas to the table.

Allowing ideas to only come from certain individuals is what I call an “Idea Dictatorship”. This is the one of the worst things that can happen to a startup or business in my opinion. When your team starts deferring to just one individual for ideas, your team is in trouble. Your team will essentially be reduced to a single brain (b) where b = 1 for your team or business.

Now let's go on the flip-side of the Idea Dictatorship and review the “Idea Meritocracy”. I first heard this phrase from the James Altucher podcast, which I think is on point. The Idea Meritocracy is where ideas can flow in from your team members in an unrestricted fluid manor.

For the sake of concept illustration of the Idea Meritocracy, lets use a movie scene (for fun and memory). Envision, with your mind's eye, a popular 80's movie scene from the movie Mad Max - Beyond the Thunderdome. In the scene I'm referring to, a massive domed cage where gladiator-like battles take place between warriors comes into focus. A referee character, represented by Tina Turner, welcomes the two warriors that will fight to the death. The crowd of spectators watch in excitement around the dome and continuously chant - “two men enter, one man leaves”.

Let's think about this scene of the movie and replace the key components:


Thunderdome > replace with Meeting

Warriors > replace with Ideas

Chant “two men enter, one man leaves” > replace with “many ideas enter, best idea(s) leaves”


Now it's important for the sake of these idea battles (discussions) to ensure that the warrior characters in this thought exercise remain ideas and NOT meeting participants. Ideas should win on their own merit with no consideration given to which meeting participant presented the idea. Assuming all meeting participants allow only the ideas to battle, you will come out of that meeting with the best ideas. Use the same concept to derive plans and tactics, which will bring those great ideas to life.

If, while in a meeting, you find that ideas are getting one dimensional (i.e. b = 1), try to pivot from idea-giving to question mode. Introduce questions into the meeting and direct those queries to those individuals who are not contributing. This will get more ideas into the Thunderdome (meeting) and spark contributions from others in the room by default.

I hope this movie analogy helps you to envision and recall the concept of the Idea Meritocracy. A business can only reach its peak performance when b = many participants contributing ideas and you allow the best ideas to win regardless of where (or who) they came from.

*Photo credits from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Movie, distributed by Warner Bros

About me: I’m mostly focused on internet growth, culture, and startups and am the COO at Wafer Inc. When I can find time between being a co-founder and life I enjoy writing, mostly here and occasionally on Linkedin. If you enjoy my writing, subscribe or follow me on LinkedIn to see more in the future.


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