Your team needs a better balance between starters and finishers

Delving into the different UX mindsets of starters and finishers in the tech world

Starters and finishers in a race
Starters and finishers (Image by author via Midjourney)

Ever wondered how some people seem to have the knack for coming up with brilliant ideas and getting them off the ground, while others excel at bringing projects to successful completion? Or why some projects seem to take off like a rocket, while others sputter and fail to launch?

It’s not just about having the right resources, technology, or strategy — it’s also about having the right mix of people. In particular, it’s about having a balance between starters and finishers. In every project, whether it’s in the technology industry, pharmaceuticals, video games, or elsewhere, it’s important to have a team with a range of skills and behavioral tendencies between these two extremes.

In this post, we’ll explore the different strengths and motivations of these two types of team members, and how project managers can find the right balance to maximize their team’s potential. So buckle up, get ready for takeoff, and let’s explore the fascinating world of starters and finishers!

But what exactly are starters and finishers? Apple, for instance, is often cited as a quintessential starter company, with Steve Jobs being the driving force behind innovation and creating new products that would change the world. However, it was Steve Wozniak who played the role of a finisher, taking Jobs’ ideas and turning them into functional products. Without Wozniak, Jobs’ vision may have remained just that, a vision.

Old photograph of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak working
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Photograph: DB Apple/DPA/Press Association Images)

Starters are motivated by the act of creation. They love to start new things, to fill up blank pages with their ideas and to push for change and improvement. They thrive in the early stages of a project, when there’s a lot of room for exploration and experimentation. However, starters can also struggle to finish tasks, as they may become bored with a project once it’s no longer new and exciting.

Finishers, on the other hand, are motivated by the satisfaction of completion. They enjoy taking a task from beginning to end and seeing the tangible results of their work. Finishers are great at pushing a project across the finish line, but they may struggle with starting something new or with taking risks and exploring new ideas.

In other words, starters are like the spark that ignites a fire, providing the initial energy and excitement for a project. Finishers are like the flame that keeps the fire burning, providing the steady and consistent effort needed to complete the project.

Launched Kid GIF from Giphy
Team work to launch GIF (Source: Giphy)

Examples from the Tech Industry

In the tech industry, there are plenty of examples of “starters” and “finishers”, respectively. And it’s no secret that they are the driving force behind launching and landing some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world. In a way, the success of any startup or technology company depends on finding the right balance between starters and finishers. Here are some examples of each:

Starters who have a talent for identifying gaps in the market and ideating ideas for new products:

  1. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, known for launching ambitious projects such as electric cars, space exploration, and high-speed transportation systems.
  2. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, known for launching and growing the social media giant into one of the most influential companies in the world.
  3. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in tech by teaching young girls to code. She was motivated by the lack of women in tech and the belief that young girls should be given the opportunity to pursue careers in technology.
  4. Tracy Young, co-founder of PlanGrid, who was motivated by her own frustration as a construction engineer who was constantly dealing with paper blueprints and decided to create a solution to streamline the process.
  5. Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, a black, queer woman who started a venture capital firm that invests in underrepresented founders.

Finishers who are skilled at polishing and refining products to ensure a seamless user experience:

  1. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, known for successfully continuing the legacy of Steve Jobs and overseeing the company’s continued growth and innovation.
  2. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, known for turning around the company’s fortunes after a period of decline and leading it to new successes in areas such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
  3. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, known for helping to grow the company’s advertising business and overseeing its day-to-day operations.
  4. Shellye Archambeau, former CEO of MetricStream. She was motivated by her desire to transform the company into a leading enterprise software provider and successfully achieved that goal by leading the company through a period of significant growth and acquisition.
  5. Shamina Singh, founder of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, a nonprofit that works to advance equitable and sustainable economic growth. She is widely known for her remarkable finisher qualities.
Tricky launch GIF skateboarder from Giphy
Tricky launch team work GIF (Source: Giphy)

Effective Collaboration

So, how do you find the right balance between starters and finishers? The key is to recognize the strengths and motivations of each team member. Starters can be given the space to explore new ideas, while finishers can be given clear goals and deadlines to work towards.

Metaphorically speaking, starters are like the choreographer of a dance performance, creating the vision and movement for the performance. Finishers are like the dancers, executing the choreography with precision and discipline to create a successful performance.

Starters are motivated by the act of creation. Finishers are motivated by the satisfaction of completion.

In a marketing team, starters might be the creative directors who come up with new and innovative campaigns, while finishers might be the project managers who ensure that the campaigns are delivered on time and within budget.

In a software development team, starters might be the programmers who enjoy brainstorming new features and functionalities, while finishers might be the quality assurance team who ensure that the product meets the specified requirements before release.

In a design team, starters might be the artists who come up with the initial sketches and concepts, while finishers might be the production team who bring those designs to life by creating prototypes and final products.

So it’s not about relying on generalizations of “corporate horoscopes”, but about understanding the preferential ways in which your people like to work; and what they are good at. If you’re a starter, you may be asked to help another team get started on a project by generating a multitude of possibilities and filling a blank page with ideas that inspire others. On the other hand, if you’re a finisher, you might be asked to “land other people’s airplanes” by taking over a project that has already been started and finishing it with precision and attention to detail.

Therefore, communication is key: starters and finishers may speak different languages, so it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page. To ensure effective communication between starters and finishers, it’s essential to establish clear goals and deadlines for each project. In the tech industry, this might involve setting sprint goals and using agile methodologies to track progress and communicate openly. By recognizing the unique strengths and working styles of each person, you can create a more effective and collaborative team environment.

UX Lessons in Launching and Completing

So what can we learn from these starters and finishers when it comes to UX design? As it turns out, quite a lot. From understanding user needs to executing on a vision, there are valuable insights to be gained from their approaches to starting and finishing projects. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the core UX lessons we can learn from this:

  1. Understand your users’ needs: Starters are known for their ability to identify a gap in the market and develop products that meet users’ needs. By understanding your users’ pain points and desires, you can create a more effective and user-friendly UX.
  2. Focus on simplicity: Starters often create simple and intuitive designs that are easy for users to understand and use. By avoiding unnecessary complexity, you can make your UX more efficient and enjoyable for users.
  3. Have a clear vision: Starters have a clear vision for their products and are able to communicate it effectively to their teams. By having a strong vision for your UX, you can ensure that all design decisions are aligned with your goals and create a cohesive user experience.
  4. Pay attention to detail: Finishers are known for their attention to detail and ability to ensure that all aspects of a product are polished and functional. By focusing on the details of your UX, you can create a more seamless and enjoyable user experience.
  5. Continuously iterate: Finishers are skilled at improving and refining existing products to meet evolving user needs. By continuously iterating on your UX, you can stay ahead of the competition and create a more satisfying experience for your users.

By applying these UX lessons from the starters and finishers in the tech industry, you can create products that are both innovative and user-friendly, and ultimately drive the success of your business.

The Simpsons GIF by Fox TV
The Simpsons clip (Source: Giphy)

From Idea to Reality

Starters and finishers, they’re the yin and yang of the tech industry. Starters are those who ignite the fire, those who bring to life the ideas that change the world. They are the ones who launch rockets into space, create social media empires, and disrupt entire industries. Finishers, on the other hand, are those who keep the flame burning, those who ensure that the project is completed to the highest standards. They are the ones who continue the legacy of their predecessors and turn around struggling companies.

Of course, while the terms “starter” and “finisher” may be simplifications of complex motivations, they can be a useful way to think about the different strengths and approaches of team members. Accordingly, this can help project managers to build a team that can take on any challenge by understanding the balance between creativity and completion.

So, whether you’re someone who initiates new projects or someone who sees them through to completion, there’s a great deal of value in collaborating with those who have a different approach. By understanding the unique perspectives of both starters and finishers, you can gain insights into how they think about things and together create more effective, well-rounded solutions.

Categorized as UX

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.