Decision patterns – an actionable mental model for startups

In his book, The Founder’s Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman highlights in multiple places the need for a comprehensive and shared mental model among the co-founders of a new business.  Many of the root causes of failed start-ups can be traced to:

  • Holes in this mental model because of human capital/experience gaps among the founding team.
  • Hidden differences between the mental models of the co-founders that create tensions when facing critical start-up decisions.
  • Differences in co-founder decision-making styles that further exacerbate mental model gaps and fuzziness.

Many of the techniques recommended in the book to de-risk a start-up involve ways to fill these human capital/mental model gaps and to improve communications among co-founders so that the “elephant in the room” differences and decisions are addressed early and openly.

Wasserman’s book goes a long way to provide a simplified decision-based mental model of a startup.  Each of his founder’s dilemmas address a set of closely-related and intertwined decisions for which he elaborates the criteria to consider and a range of the typical alternatives that have been used by the technology and life science start-ups in his extensive research database.

The decision patterns available within the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) take these lessons learned a step further by delivering the decision model in the form of a Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) coupled with a simple, yet powerful set of decision analysis tools.  This transforms the decision pattern into an ACTIONABLE, EXPLICIT and SHARED mental model in which each decision can be framed, prioritized, delegated to a team member, analyzed using a consistent set of visualizations and communicated to all parties affected.  Elephants in the room have nowhere to hide!

DDSF also provides tools to explicitly capture and manage the interactions between decisions and communicate/trace the impact of each decision on business and product requirements and project plans.  This further breaks down the mental model “silos” that can exist even among a small team of co-founders.

Any business incubation/acceleration framework that provides your mental model for successful entrepreneurship can be easily mapped to a decision pattern within DDSF and made ACTIONABLE, EXPLICIT and SHARED.  If this is intriguing to you, please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at or to begin your free DDSF trial today.

About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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