As a mentorship-driven accelerator, the Founder Institute leans heavily on our Founder & CEO mentors to provide critical feedback to our early-stage founders. A good portion of this feedback takes place during the "Founder Hotseats" - the portion of our training sessions where founders pitch their ideas and growth strategies to Mentors, who are then asked to provide ratings and feedback on a scale of 1 - 5.
Recently we implemented a new rule to our Founder Hotseats across many locations - "no threes allowed." Inspired by our friend George Zachary, who implemented a "no-threes" rule for himself while judging our Founder Showcase events, this scoring system is designed to polarize and focus the feedback, which should ultimately lead to deeper and more honest insight for startups in dire need of exactly that.
One of our highest rated mentors, Rajesh Setty, recently wrote about this practice on his blog, explaining why this method of polarized feedback should be sought by all startup founders. You can read the full post on Rajesh Setty's Blog here. Below is an excerpt;
"Choosing number three as a rating is really a cop-out. It was definitely the safe option – an option where one could sit on the fence. This was a place where you could not go wrong – if the founder made progress, you could say you were on the higher end of three and if the founder didn’t make progress, you could say you were on the lower end of three – whatever. Basically, you had an option to come out unscathed irrespective of what happened next.
Taking a Stand
Removing the option of choosing three forced everyone to take a stand – a clear stand on whether you like what you hear or not. Sitting on the fence is not an option. Choosing a two would send a message and choosing a four would send a very different message. Removing option three was a brilliant move by Adeo Ressi (Founder of FI) to completely eliminate a “cop out” choice.
Beyond Hot Seats
This concept has wide ranging applications way beyond rating pitches during hot seats. Every time you ask for feedback of any kind, it is better to remove the “cop out” choice. It really doesn’t help if you get a three as a rating for anything. You don’t know what is being said. You don’t know whether they are happy or sad or they are just trying to be nice and polite. It is better to know the real feedback than to be in the fantasy world that everything is just great."