Today I ran across a thought provoking post by Jeff Atwood with the same title as this one via Fred Wilson’s blog. In it, he explains how his firm’s entire strategy is summed up by this clip from Better Off Dead:
If for some reason you can’t see the video (or if your attention span is shorter than 27 seconds), here is the quick summary: John Cusack’s character can’t figure out how to ski down the intimidating slope, and Curtis Armstrong’s character tells him:
Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way … turn.
Atwood uses the clip as an analogy to make the point that you don’t have to release a perfect product first thing, you just need to improve faster than anyone else. In other words, you can win through out-experimenting and out-iterating your competition. His examples are Chrome and Android from Google. Chrome put out 6 versions in the time it took Microsoft to get from Internet Explorer 7 to IE8. In the course of those iterations, Chrome has gone from an adequate browser to a pretty excellent one. Same with Android.
This reminded me of something that Chris Guillebeau wrote this week when his book The Art of Non-Conformity was released:
I really don’t have a strategy besides what anyone can see on the site.
But yes, friends, there is indeed a method to the magic. The method is called: Dream very big. Decide to do big things and then set them in motion.
My strategic plan is: say yes to everything.
The tactic is: get up early and stay up late.
Whoa, so strategic! I know, I know… I’m really giving away the secrets to the store.
The point is that you don’t have to figure everything out before you get started. Dreaming comes first; details come later.
The critical point for innovators is this: when we have a great idea, we need to execute it. It’s great to have a strategy laid out in advance, but the strategy will inevitably change once we start figuring out exactly how to make the idea work. So instead of planning everything out before we start, you can make a pretty strong argument for getting started, and then iterating.
In other words, Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way … turn.