Build, Launch, and Tweak

My biggest failing as an innovator is that I get over-attached to ideas. I’m getting better at this, but for a long time if I had a great idea, I was pretty content to just do stuff that managed the idea, or to just talk about the idea, or even to just think about the idea. That’s one of the reasons that I am so adamant here about how essential it is to execute ideas. I’m really yelling at myself.

This is one of the reasons that a lot of the ideas to come from 37signals resonates so strongly with me – they are all about executing ideas. Their book Getting Real is ostensibly about making web apps, but it’s really about how to execute ideas. Here is how Wired UK describes it:

The message: small teams, working on manageable systems, with fewer features mean that applications are better, quicker to market, and faster to improve. Moreover, it recommends that the best way to plan your ideas is to build them first. “The only real way to determine whether something’s worth doing is actually to do it,” explains Fried, 35. “When you sit down to plan something out, you typically make it bigger than it needs to be.”

And then there’s this from the intro:

Getting Real is about skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and actually building the real thing.

Getting real is less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential (and most of what you think is essential actually isn’t).

Getting Real is staying small and being agile.

I think that the reason that we sit on ideas is that if we don’t execute them, they will always have potential. If we try it out and it doesn’t work, we lose that potential value.

The problem though is that the actual value of potential value is zero. If we try out a great idea and it doesn’t work, we’re not any worse off than we were before. In fact, we’re better off, because now we know more than we did before we tried out our idea.

As Seth Godin says, real artists ship. They test out ideas, and they get them out the door. He recently wrote a post about Tim Burton – a display about Burton’s work showed that every single year over a 30 year career, he sunk substantial time into one or two projects that never went anywhere. Here’s what Godin says about that:

One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.

The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don’t make it. Not every time, anyway.

Tim got his ideas out the door, to the people who decided what to do with them. And more often than not, they shot down his ideas. That’s okay. He shipped.

The lesson from this is simple – don’t spend time thinking about your great ideas. Implement them! All the time. The secret that people are always surprised to learn is this: the more time you spend implementing ideas, the more new ideas you’ll have. The paradox here is that if you hoard your idea and don’t try it out, you won’t get any more. You’ll be stuck with your one, great, unexecuted idea.

Get things out the door. Test out your ideas, see what works, do more of that. Build, Launch and Tweak. The faster you do this, the more new ideas you’ll generate. And some of these will be even better than the ones you love right now.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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9 thoughts on “Build, Launch, and Tweak

  1. I like this post – even if my initial reaction was: No way!

    I like planning and I’m good at it. I like to think things through. Yes, I’m guilty of having shot down ideas because they initially sounded preposterous.

    HOWEVER, I am learning…which is why I like this post…it reminds me that there is another way.

    In IT proj mgmt, I was trained in the “waterfall” approach (Lock the requirements and design down before you build). Nowadays, I take a more iterative approach, you still get to build in requirements and you get the product out there quicker – or even in increments. It’s easier to improve on what’s already there.

    So yes, get it out there. Or as Nike said, just do it.

    AND if that’s too hard or big a jump, it is possible to take baby steps. To illustrate, I used to plan my kids party with attention to every detail. My 8 yo actually asked me for some ‘free play’ at her last party. So, I scheduled that in. She had the best party ever (easy for me and fun for her and her friends)…next time, free play will have a higher ratio.

  2. I love the idea of scheduling ‘free play’!

    I’m a planner/think througher too – which is why I often get hung up on thinking about ideas. I’m getting better at trying things out and iterating, but it’s not really my natural approach…

  3. Great post! How is one ever supposed to succeed if they don’t “fail and fail often.” Failure is the only way to learn and the more ideas you generate, the more likely you are to come across an idea that is truly innovative and insightful. Ah, the glory of open innovation!

  4. Thanks for stopping by Lindsay. I agree with you about the importance of failure – we need to be able to sort the good ideas from the bad ones…

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