Jason Fried

March 21, 2023

Don't be a knee-jerk

At most companies, people put together a deck, reserve a room (physical or virtual), and call a meeting to pitch a new idea. If they're lucky, no one interrupts them while they're presenting. When it's over, people react. This is precisely the problem.

The person making the pitch has presumably put a lot of time, thought, and energy into gathering their thoughts and presenting them clearly to an audience. But the rest of the people in the room are asked to react. Not absorb, not think it over, not consider — just react. Knee-jerk it. That's no way to treat fragile, new ideas.

At 37signals we flip the script.

When we present work, it's almost always written up first. In long form. A few hundred words, maybe a thousand. A complete idea in the form of a carefully composed document. Complete with rough sketches where visual communication shines a brighter light. And then it's posted to Basecamp, which lets everyone involved know there's a complete idea waiting to be considered.


We don't want reactions. We don't want first impressions. We don't want knee-jerks. We want considered feedback. Read it over. Read it twice, three times even. Ponder. Sleep on it. Take your time to gather and present your thoughts — just like the person who pitched the original idea took their time to gather and present theirs.

That's how you go deep on an idea.

Sometimes when people pitch ideas at 37signals there will be radio silence for a few days before a flood of feedback comes in. That's fine, and expected. Imagine a silent room after a physical meeting-style pitch. Silence would be awkward. And that's precisely why we prefer to present out-of-person. To allow silence and quiet contemplation to be an acceptable outcome. We want silence and consideration to feel natural, not anxiety provoking.

When we pitch this way, we're effectively "forcing the floor." No one can interrupt the presenter because there's no one there to interrupt. The idea is shared whole. They have the floor and it can't be taken away. And then, when you're ready to present your feedback, the floor is fully yours.

Give it a try sometime. Don't meet, write. Don't react, consider.


A similar piece was originally published in our book It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work.

About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.