Q: Why Startups Need a Culture? A: It’s the Referee, Stupid!

Question for you Ravi: What do you think the “culture” or “principles” of a startup are actually for? What is the fundamental purpose of them that make the experts say they are so important?

The culture is the root cause of the growth mindset. It directly drives and is a derivative of the colossal energy that a startup creates. Two fundamental Principles – Growth & Collaboration Cultural Elements – Honest Team & Empathy Now look at the whole scenario.

I see culture or principles on a micro & macro level. “How we do things here” or “how we fix or resolve things here”. Sounds simple except for 1 thing, how do we fix things when the boss is the fixer & offender? That is where culture comes in, to counter management’s rules. IMO

That’s also a good way of looking at things IMO How do we get things done better and with efficacy ? I think getting things done with a hustle is more important and that sets the tone for culture

The real complication is I believe that in a startup we don’t really know who is boss and we don’t really know how to fix things here. Usually startups have no rules of engagement, no HR, no culture. This makes startups look like the Wild West & I have personally experienced that

Agree to disagree. Lot of successful ones which I have worked with or I knew them up close and personal had all these sorted from day 2 of course not from day 1 But yes day 2 for sure

Also Ravi, I don’t want to help successful startups, as you mentioned, I want to help the ones that fail ie. the 90% of funded startups that fail. And quite possibly due to the lack of culture or dispute resolution process present. Yes 90%!

Ok Ravi, name a startup that I could ask “how they fix it here”? Where I could ask any 2 members what is the procedure for tackling (& resolving) incivility during a disagreement. My bet is this 1. No one would have the same answer. 2. There isn’t a solution to this issue.

I have yet to find an organization or startup that has a culture that can adequately address when a person is simply offended by another, without needing to go to management or HR, ie conflict of interest. (I say that because disputes can involve management & HR)

Desmond SHerlock Disputz.com

Startup Referees

If I told you Manchester United and Liverpool or the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots were playing a match and I asked you who would you pick as the most important contributors to the game, I think most of you would pick your favorite superstar players from either team. The players worth multi-million dollars, and with the best stats, of course.

If I asked you also to pick the most important contributor for a startup to be successful you would probably come up with a picture similar to this one below.

Important contributors to a startup’s success

But what if I told you that the most important contributor in these matches are the referees not any of the team members?

It’s the referees dummy!
Without these referees the match would be a total chaotic mess. And yet, as important as they are to the success of the game and both teams, they are usually taken for granted and overlooked as THE most important contributor to the game. And that the same referees seem to be overlooked with startup teams.

“WHAT REFEREES are in a startup team?” I hear you say. I am glad you asked grasshopper. Here is what I believe the diagram should look like:

The forgotten contributor to a startup’s success

The referees (refs) are the moderating tools that we use when a disagreement arises during difficult conversations. The very conversations that we need to have when making important decision for the success of the startup. These are usually pivotal decisions in the life of a startup and can make or break it. So they usually are intense conversations and disagreements. So every team will have these referees, however they usually are implicit and team members are not usually consciously aware that they even exist until they fail and a dispute arises. Other teams may have more explicit referees and we usually refer to these referees as “culture” or “principles”.

Now that we understand what Culture or Principles are really for, maybe we could actually design a series of referees that can take a team and game to the next level.

Disputz.com is such a referee system designed to take culture to the next level for moderating a team during the most extreme decision making disagreements.

Good Things Happen in Threes

What I am about to propose is NEW. There is nothing like this on the planet at the moment, that I can find for resolving disputes in the workplace. The following is my pitch for how we can tackle any incivility or misbehavior that takes place in the workplace.


Our road traffic and sports have run pretty smoothly for over 100 years by simply following these three step tools:

    We have 3 colors and we start or stop:
    1. Go2. Caution3. Stop
    The umpire declares 3 strikes and you’re out.
    The referee uses his tools:
    1. Whistle2. Yellow Card3. Red Card

Are you getting the idea?

It seems that the system of 3 tries/strikes, before a dismissal, can be made effectively and efficiently, in real-time, by an independent referee. Now, imagine if we applied this model with tackling incivility in the workplace?
“But we don’t have the luxury of an independent referee or adjudicator when we have a dispute caused by incivility”, I hear you say. Correct, and this is where the second part of this model comes in.

PEERS VOTE (democratic)

When we need a referee or an independent adjudicator, society has also used the following processes successfully for hundreds of years:

    Uses our peers to review and vote on what is good science or bad science.
    Uses our peers to review and vote on who we want to stay or go in governing us.
  3. judiciary
    Uses a jury of our peers to review and vote who should stay in society or go to prison:

Now, what if we used both tried and true methods to determine who should stay or go in
the workplace, when there is an internal dispute. But we only use the democratic process as a last resort if we cannot resolve our disputes by ourselves.

The Disputz Network Review is the result of this hybrid of the two processes.

My Message to the Allusionist

Hi Helen Zaltzman (The Allusionist Podcasts),
I have been looking at the word Object as in Objection for the last few years and find it fascinating that we rarely use it/act on it, but instead of use the act of “disagreeing” or “complaining” rather than the act of objecting.

My question is can you explain what you think is the distinct differences between:

  • Disagreeing and objecting?
  • Complaining and objecting?

I think I may have discovered some very useful differences but cannot find any reference to what I may have discovered.

  • Disagreeing is usually about differing with the content of a discussion.
    Whereas objecting is more reserved for the way we disagree, ie the behavior during a disagreement.
  • Complaining is usually done indirectly & after the fact ie back biting, gossipping to others.
    Whereas objecting is usually done directly & real-time to the offender.

By failing to object (real-time & direct) as we disagree, we then end up complaining (indirect & after the fact) or more commonly called gossipping, having a rant or venting etc.

In other words this may be the cause of all of our anxiety and anger. We then become the aggressor
and the receiver becomes the submissor (and maybe later the aggressor), whereas, once again the solution becomes Objecting by the Objector, I believe.

Can we actually find the Objective by becoming the Objector and Objecting? I think so.

Let’s Agree to Object?

“Let’s agree to disagree”, is the famous cleché used to stop disagreements, that have become an impasse.
But what if we had a better solution such as “Let’s agree to object”? That is “lets keep the discussion open but if either of us feel threatened by the other’s imposition, then we can simply object to the way they are disagreeing”. In fact we can object in 3 phases, in order to achieve an agreement:

  1. Caution,
  2. Object
  3. Stop

This is my proposal that I believe will someday change the way we disagree globally.

Let’s Agree to Object?

We have all heard the cliche “Let’s agree to disagree”. In my view this is a cop out. The person is basically proposing the following:

“Let’s call it quits on our discussion as it will be too difficult to resolve and if we continue or even postpone our discussion it may result in one or both of us misbehaving”.

However, what if we used the proposal of “Let’s agree to Object” instead? That is:

“Let’s continue to discuss our disagreement now or at a later time and if one of us did misbehave or act uncivilly, then the other could object, in real-time, to their misbehavior.”

This is my solution to this age old problem of being at loggerheads with each other.

Let’s agree to object?


Object123 is the first tool in the Civility123 toolkit that we use to address incivility or misbehavior in the workplace. It consists of a seamless three step process that we use to address when we deem that someone is offensive. Consisting of:

1. Caution the offender with a simple verbal caution ie “I would like to caution you now” and on what grounds for your objection and you can expect to receive a simple acknowledgment or an explanation to defend their offense. If you deemed their response was unsatisfactory you can escalate to:

2. Object being an official email/text objection and on what grounds, ie simply tell the offender your objection will be in their inbox shortly and expect to receive a email/text reply with a simple apology or explanation defending their offense. If you were still unsatisfied you can escalate to:

3. Stop being an official email/text warning that you are about to post your dispute on the Disputz review network that will include any documented text between you and the accused offender. At this point you can expect to receive an acceptable apology of what was said, why it was said and what the offender would do next time. If not satisfied you then post on Disputz.com to be reviewed and commented upon by work colleagues.

The 3 step procedure of Object123 to hold each other to account for incivility

Workplace Civility

We can’t PREVENT misbehavior or incivility in the workplace; it is a given. On occasion, it WILL happen between colleagues or between managers and team members, especially when we disagree. When our ideas are threatened, we can become defensive and offensive, resulting in angry or uncivil behavior. We can, however, tackle this behavior rather than trying to put up with it or ignore it.

I could write reams of quotes on the adverse effects that incivility has on teams in organizations. Suffice it for me to say that it is significant and is still neglected in many organizations.

The solution we are proposing for our organization is called Civility123. Without going into too much detail here, I will give you a brief outline. It consists of 3 phases of accountability for our incivility or misbehavior.

  1. Object123
    That is, we OBJECT to misbehavior during a disagreement in 3 phases and in real-time, rather than complaining about the person later, thus nipping any potential for long-term disputes in the bud.
    1. Caution – A verbal warning that requires a simple acknowledgment, or escalate to…
    2. Object – A written email objection that requires a simple apology or escalate to…
    3. Stop – A post on our dispute peer review platform and requires an acceptable apology from either or both participants to resolve it.

  2. Disputz
    Once the offended person has posted their dispute on the Disputz.com site, it would consist of all their correspondence. Anyone in the organization can then offer feedback on their dispute. At this point, whoever is deemed to have misbehaved would need to provide an acceptable apology consisting of:
    1. What was said
    2. Why it was said and
    3. What he or she would do next time

  3. Civility Live
    The third and final phase of their dispute would be to zoom the dispute on our Civility.live video platform. Each person could nominate up to 4 team members in the organization to adjudicate their dispute. Failure to resolve the dispute at this stage without an acceptable apology from either or both would mean a vote is taken by the team members and they would recommend someone for dismissal.

Of course, all participants in an organization would need to agree to use the Civility123 toolkit beforehand, and it would apply to every member of the organization, from the Janitor to the CEO.

Looking for Objectivity? Object!

Explainer: what is peer review?
Independent Peer Review Process Takes Us Closer To Objectivity

The scientific process of an independent peer review has been responsible for getting us to the scientific progress level that we all can benefit from today. What is missing is a similar process applied to our social discourse to achieve such levels of objectivity.

Could it be that by simply objecting to any misbehavior during a disagreement or discussion that we can find objectivity or get closer to it? Well, I think so, and I think that I can prove it.

I believe that by objecting to any misbehavior in real-time during a disagreement, we begin to activate a transparent process for dealing with more subjective viewpoints that, cause misbehavior.

Being subjective seems to leave us believing that we are oh-so-right which can and has resulted in some terrible deeds in the past and also just general misbehavior and incivility during disagreements. Such incivility as the use of absolute and dogmatic language and thinking where you are wrong and I am right. Along with tone, shouting, swearing, sarcasm, steamrolling, ignoring, sulking, nagging, blaming, threatening, etc., etc, we have all been there!

It seems to me that when we are angry we are at our most subjective. By beginning the objecting process during a disagreement in real-time, it allows for an open discussion on our behavior itself rather than just on the content of the discussion. Effectively it enables us to split the conversation into two parts:

A: The scope or content for whatever disagreement we may have  

B: The behavior in how we deliver this content.

Also having the option of a final democratic process whereby we use a panel of our peers to openly and independently scrutinize and adjudicate any objections raised, ensures we are always putting out high-quality behavior and information, taking us that much closer to objectivity.

Object123 is my proposal to begin the objectivity process to reduce our subjectivity and the misbehavior it can cause.