Go That Way, Really Fast

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.

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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2 thoughts on “Go That Way, Really Fast

  1. Great concept – and phrasing! I do wonder, though, what happens in the movie after this scene …

    I’ve recently encountered a few other variations on this theme. One is a 2002 article by Robert Sutton in Entrepreneur on When Ignorance is Bliss, which I discovered in a recent search for external evidence for a belief I’ve long held regarding naivete being a key ingredient to innovation and entrepreneurship:

    If you want to innovate, there are sound reasons to ignore the experts who seem to have solved the problems your company faces. This strategy is especially useful in the early stages of the creative process. People who don’t know how things are “supposed to be” aren’t blinded by existing beliefs.

    The other is wisdom shared by Eric Ries during a recent Web 2.0 Expo presentation:

    Eric Ries, Venture Advisor and evangelist of the Lean Startup, said that we need to stop wasting people’s time building products that no one wants and learn how to pivot: building, measuring and learning, being willing to change directions as we learn from customers, and iterating through these three stages as quickly as we can.

    [I’ve shared more notes – and a images – from Eric’s talk and other presentations in a blog post on Serendipity Platforms, Unintended Consequences and Explosive Positivity at the Web 2.0 Expo.]

  2. Thanks for that Joe – & thanks for the link. I remember that post, it’s a good one.

    It’s been 20 years or so since I saw all of the movie, but I’m pretty sure he makes it down the slope ok. Probably ought to watch it again though!

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