Innovate Fast, Build Faster

 

It’s smart to plan, if you have the time to do so.

Working out as many details as possible. Getting the right business plan written up. The right people involved. The right stationery designed.

You don’t really have nearly as much time as you think you do when you’re starting a business. Sure you feel rushed and like there’s never enough hours in the day, but usually the reason you feel that way is because you’re trying to create a full-blown, fully-evolved business from day one, and I’m sorry, but that never works out as planned (no matter how many months are spent planning).

In my mind, the more difficult (though less time-consuming) path is to act quickly. Show your hand and play the cards as they fall. Think things through then move as quickly as you can to make those ideas concrete, rather than spending years adjusting and readjusting the scaffolding where the concrete will someday be poured.

Seth Godin calls this ‘delivering,’ I call it being a business-person rather than a person planning a business.

This idea is prominent in the coding world, where ‘agile software development’ has become a very dominant philosophy when it comes to rich Internet applications. The company that can innovate AND deliver the fastest is the one that gets the cookie, leaving the one that innovates and plans and then plans some more with nothing but crumbs.

There will be problems and hiccups and a million little glitches when you release a beta version of anything. The thing is, there are problems with an over-planned product, too; the difference is they’re correcting problems that arise in the lab, whereas the company that delivers quickly is able to start fixing real-world problems.

Additionally, from the start the more nimble company is earning money from their product, building their brand and bringing in early-adopters as pseudo-consultants and evangelists.

A big part of why this is on my mind is that I recently started up a new endeavor called ‘ebookling.’ I’ll be making a more formal announcement about this business soon – you can join the mailing list if you want to be really edgy – and though developing the concept took some doing, and there are still many details to be worked out, the project itself has come together VERY quickly, despite the sheer number of other people who are involved and the fact that with it I’m dabbling in a business that I’m still quite unfamiliar with.

At the end of the day I know that I’ll be able to evolve the project much more quickly and effectively if I release it to the world before I have each and every bell and whistle fully tweaked. Ideas have a time, and I think that I’ve come across something that was bound to happen sooner or later, I just want to make sure I’m able to get it out there and make it work well before someone else does.

What ideas are you knocking about but not acting on? How soon can you make some kind of tangible effort toward making it a reality? Why not right now?

30 comments

  1. Colin-
    Definitely agree. However, I’d be interested in what you think of Apple’s model, where they go ahead, let everybody else screw up and then come in with a product that fixes everyone else’s mistakes? How does that fit in?

    P.s. I ran across ebookling a week or so ago | I’d be interested in more details of the project. I had a similar idea a while back but I want to see where you’re going with this =)

  2. Colin-
    Definitely agree. However, I’d be interested in what you think of Apple’s model, where they go ahead, let everybody else screw up and then come in with a product that fixes everyone else’s mistakes? How does that fit in?

    P.s. I ran across ebookling a week or so ago | I’d be interested in more details of the project. I had a similar idea a while back but I want to see where you’re going with this =)

  3. Colin-
    Definitely agree. However, I’d be interested in what you think of Apple’s model, where they go ahead, let everybody else screw up and then come in with a product that fixes everyone else’s mistakes? How does that fit in?

    P.s. I ran across ebookling a week or so ago | I’d be interested in more details of the project. I had a similar idea a while back but I want to see where you’re going with this =)

  4. I used to think that build fast meant work your butt off, pull all-nighters, etc. But I have recently come to realize that it means knowing your limits and limiting the scope of your project.

    By planning, we are able to look ahead in time to all of the things we are going to do. We can strike things from the plan that, while good ideas, are not necessary for a first release. By removing all suck steps from the plan, our plan becomes lean and mean and can be executed quickly without resorting to working faster and harder.

    Thanks, Colin!

  5. I used to think that build fast meant work your butt off, pull all-nighters, etc. But I have recently come to realize that it means knowing your limits and limiting the scope of your project.

    By planning, we are able to look ahead in time to all of the things we are going to do. We can strike things from the plan that, while good ideas, are not necessary for a first release. By removing all suck steps from the plan, our plan becomes lean and mean and can be executed quickly without resorting to working faster and harder.

    Thanks, Colin!

  6. I used to think that build fast meant work your butt off, pull all-nighters, etc. But I have recently come to realize that it means knowing your limits and limiting the scope of your project.

    By planning, we are able to look ahead in time to all of the things we are going to do. We can strike things from the plan that, while good ideas, are not necessary for a first release. By removing all suck steps from the plan, our plan becomes lean and mean and can be executed quickly without resorting to working faster and harder.

    Thanks, Colin!

  7. This message has been repeated by so many. I almost feel likes it’s become a staple of my reading diet, and in no way does that deter me from enjoying and appreciating it.

    Just do it, do it now!

  8. This message has been repeated by so many. I almost feel likes it’s become a staple of my reading diet, and in no way does that deter me from enjoying and appreciating it.

    Just do it, do it now!

  9. This message has been repeated by so many. I almost feel likes it’s become a staple of my reading diet, and in no way does that deter me from enjoying and appreciating it.

    Just do it, do it now!

  10. I’ve always had a problem getting out of planning mode. Starting at the beginning of this month I decided to actually DO SOMETHING, and the results have been tremendous. My product has made a few sales (something that I thought would have taken months) and I’m pretty much waaay too excited about it.

    That’s what I got from this post… taking action is the best policy.

    Nice one. And really excited to hear more about this new project of yours. I’m sure you’ve got something real neat up your sleeve.

  11. I’ve always had a problem getting out of planning mode. Starting at the beginning of this month I decided to actually DO SOMETHING, and the results have been tremendous. My product has made a few sales (something that I thought would have taken months) and I’m pretty much waaay too excited about it.

    That’s what I got from this post… taking action is the best policy.

    Nice one. And really excited to hear more about this new project of yours. I’m sure you’ve got something real neat up your sleeve.

  12. I’ve always had a problem getting out of planning mode. Starting at the beginning of this month I decided to actually DO SOMETHING, and the results have been tremendous. My product has made a few sales (something that I thought would have taken months) and I’m pretty much waaay too excited about it.

    That’s what I got from this post… taking action is the best policy.

    Nice one. And really excited to hear more about this new project of yours. I’m sure you’ve got something real neat up your sleeve.

  13. Wow that is amazing that you posted this. It relates directly to what I’m doing right now—designing & developing my first blog/folio site.

    I’ve changed design directions about five times now and finally I realized I need to just get this damn thing done and put it out into the world. I can always change the design later, it doesn’t have to be perfect right now. I’m just starting up my career, the content is all that really matters. Ugh, the act of a designer trying to design for himself is quite daunting.

    I need to stop trying to make everything perfect and just get the ball rolling.

  14. Wow that is amazing that you posted this. It relates directly to what I’m doing right now—designing & developing my first blog/folio site.

    I’ve changed design directions about five times now and finally I realized I need to just get this damn thing done and put it out into the world. I can always change the design later, it doesn’t have to be perfect right now. I’m just starting up my career, the content is all that really matters. Ugh, the act of a designer trying to design for himself is quite daunting.

    I need to stop trying to make everything perfect and just get the ball rolling.

  15. Wow that is amazing that you posted this. It relates directly to what I’m doing right now—designing & developing my first blog/folio site.

    I’ve changed design directions about five times now and finally I realized I need to just get this damn thing done and put it out into the world. I can always change the design later, it doesn’t have to be perfect right now. I’m just starting up my career, the content is all that really matters. Ugh, the act of a designer trying to design for himself is quite daunting.

    I need to stop trying to make everything perfect and just get the ball rolling.

  16. “Ebookling.” At the very least, I love the name!

    Ship, deliver, push out, hand off, etc. Call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day, if it’s not in someone else’s hands, it’s not going anywhere.

    Colin, do you think there’s a line below which you SHOULD NOT ship? How undeveloped of an idea can you get away?

    I say it doesn’t really matter and you can always move forward from any position, but I know it’s a question on a lot of peoples’ minds.

  17. “Ebookling.” At the very least, I love the name!

    Ship, deliver, push out, hand off, etc. Call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day, if it’s not in someone else’s hands, it’s not going anywhere.

    Colin, do you think there’s a line below which you SHOULD NOT ship? How undeveloped of an idea can you get away?

    I say it doesn’t really matter and you can always move forward from any position, but I know it’s a question on a lot of peoples’ minds.

  18. “Ebookling.” At the very least, I love the name!

    Ship, deliver, push out, hand off, etc. Call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day, if it’s not in someone else’s hands, it’s not going anywhere.

    Colin, do you think there’s a line below which you SHOULD NOT ship? How undeveloped of an idea can you get away?

    I say it doesn’t really matter and you can always move forward from any position, but I know it’s a question on a lot of peoples’ minds.

  19. @Joel: I think Apple move’s as fast as is prudent for their model. Once you get to that scale, though, there’s a lot more to lose. They DO tend to release and then update, though, which makes their upgrading process go a whole lot faster than it otherwise would.

    @Eric: Exactly!

    @Tim: Good to know the message is getting out there from many directions!

    @Brandon: That’s a different definition than is generally used for the Pareto Principle (80/20 Principle), but it’s definitely still a principle that is worth keeping in mind! Great blog post, by the way.

    @Nate: Congrats on getting your product launched and selling! What kind of product is it? I’ll update you on the project veryyyyy soon :)

    @Zachary: Haha, I know that feeling! It sucks being a designer and having to design for yourself..that whole ‘burden of knowledge’ thing comes into play in a big way, and you can’t really simplify your message because you know way too much about yourself. At some stage you do just need to put something out there and adjust as you’re able. That’s what I do with Exile Lifestyle (if you look back to when I first started, I changed the name the first week it was out, then changed the layout completely a month or two in, then did another major restructure at 6 months, etc).

    @Tyler: Glad you like the name! I was debating that ’til the last second. I think there IS a line where you shouldn’t ship at, and the way I figure out whether or not I’ve crossed that line is by using the self-as-customer test. Would I, if I came across the product/site/whatever, see it as something awesome that’s got a few quirks to be worked out, or would I see it as a piece of junk, just like all the other junk out there (and there’s a lot)? You can usually tell the difference, and if it still seems un-fleshed-out and un-intuitive and ugly, it’s not ready. If it’s got quirks and isn’t perfect, but still looks and functions well (if it does what it’s supposed to do! Important point!), then it should be fine (at the 80% point, a la Brandon above).

  20. @Joel: I think Apple move’s as fast as is prudent for their model. Once you get to that scale, though, there’s a lot more to lose. They DO tend to release and then update, though, which makes their upgrading process go a whole lot faster than it otherwise would.

    @Eric: Exactly!

    @Tim: Good to know the message is getting out there from many directions!

    @Brandon: That’s a different definition than is generally used for the Pareto Principle (80/20 Principle), but it’s definitely still a principle that is worth keeping in mind! Great blog post, by the way.

    @Nate: Congrats on getting your product launched and selling! What kind of product is it? I’ll update you on the project veryyyyy soon :)

    @Zachary: Haha, I know that feeling! It sucks being a designer and having to design for yourself..that whole ‘burden of knowledge’ thing comes into play in a big way, and you can’t really simplify your message because you know way too much about yourself. At some stage you do just need to put something out there and adjust as you’re able. That’s what I do with Exile Lifestyle (if you look back to when I first started, I changed the name the first week it was out, then changed the layout completely a month or two in, then did another major restructure at 6 months, etc).

    @Tyler: Glad you like the name! I was debating that ’til the last second. I think there IS a line where you shouldn’t ship at, and the way I figure out whether or not I’ve crossed that line is by using the self-as-customer test. Would I, if I came across the product/site/whatever, see it as something awesome that’s got a few quirks to be worked out, or would I see it as a piece of junk, just like all the other junk out there (and there’s a lot)? You can usually tell the difference, and if it still seems un-fleshed-out and un-intuitive and ugly, it’s not ready. If it’s got quirks and isn’t perfect, but still looks and functions well (if it does what it’s supposed to do! Important point!), then it should be fine (at the 80% point, a la Brandon above).

  21. @Joel: I think Apple move’s as fast as is prudent for their model. Once you get to that scale, though, there’s a lot more to lose. They DO tend to release and then update, though, which makes their upgrading process go a whole lot faster than it otherwise would.

    @Eric: Exactly!

    @Tim: Good to know the message is getting out there from many directions!

    @Brandon: That’s a different definition than is generally used for the Pareto Principle (80/20 Principle), but it’s definitely still a principle that is worth keeping in mind! Great blog post, by the way.

    @Nate: Congrats on getting your product launched and selling! What kind of product is it? I’ll update you on the project veryyyyy soon :)

    @Zachary: Haha, I know that feeling! It sucks being a designer and having to design for yourself..that whole ‘burden of knowledge’ thing comes into play in a big way, and you can’t really simplify your message because you know way too much about yourself. At some stage you do just need to put something out there and adjust as you’re able. That’s what I do with Exile Lifestyle (if you look back to when I first started, I changed the name the first week it was out, then changed the layout completely a month or two in, then did another major restructure at 6 months, etc).

    @Tyler: Glad you like the name! I was debating that ’til the last second. I think there IS a line where you shouldn’t ship at, and the way I figure out whether or not I’ve crossed that line is by using the self-as-customer test. Would I, if I came across the product/site/whatever, see it as something awesome that’s got a few quirks to be worked out, or would I see it as a piece of junk, just like all the other junk out there (and there’s a lot)? You can usually tell the difference, and if it still seems un-fleshed-out and un-intuitive and ugly, it’s not ready. If it’s got quirks and isn’t perfect, but still looks and functions well (if it does what it’s supposed to do! Important point!), then it should be fine (at the 80% point, a la Brandon above).

  22. This is a common topic, it seems. I wrote about it on my blog as well. :D
    Even after writing about just getting stuff done, I still managed to sit around and plan for a bit longer. Finally I decided to just go ahead and start getting product out, and soon I’ll have my first ebook ready to go. Perfect? No. Functional and not horrible looking? You betcha!

  23. This is a common topic, it seems. I wrote about it on my blog as well. :D
    Even after writing about just getting stuff done, I still managed to sit around and plan for a bit longer. Finally I decided to just go ahead and start getting product out, and soon I’ll have my first ebook ready to go. Perfect? No. Functional and not horrible looking? You betcha!

  24. This is a common topic, it seems. I wrote about it on my blog as well. :D
    Even after writing about just getting stuff done, I still managed to sit around and plan for a bit longer. Finally I decided to just go ahead and start getting product out, and soon I’ll have my first ebook ready to go. Perfect? No. Functional and not horrible looking? You betcha!

  25. To give planning the importance that it deserves, for me it depends on the size of the project. If we are talking about of middle or small sized projects with a preliminary plan it can work SUCCESFUL. I think that we must have a rough plan and be flexible in the path to get results. I agree with you that each project aren’t 100% accurately, but we will fix in the path to get the results. Particularly, when we began a project, we usually break down into mini projects it allow us to take action promptly. Thanks for the good insights, great post! :)

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