“Don’t Worry Be Crappy” Ship It Anyway

Aaron McHugh

Photo by Guy Kawasaki

Have you ever shipped a new blog, software version, music track, speech, design, (your art) knowing it wasn’t perfect and you sent it anyway?

Like you, I am an artist, an innovator constantly fielding new ideas and rumblings.

That means there is always another idea waiting for me after I ship this one.

Let’s explore why shipping early and repairing later is actually better than waiting for perfection.

Real Artists Ship.
Steve Jobs

Fellow heretic Guy Kawasaki

Formerly Guy was the chief evangelist of Apple.  I am very partial to one of his first books, Rules for Revolutionaries -The Capitalist Manifesto.

In this twelve year old book Guy lays out nine rules for revolutionaries to follow.  (See all 9 here).

Don’t Worry Be Crappy.

Yep, that is what Guy said.  And you should too.

I’ve spent the past seven years in the software world.  Software is never perfect.  As a result you have to determine the impact of the imperfections.

Sometimes you hold back and conclude that would be a mess.  Other times you hit the publish, upload, send, compile button and hope you are right.

You never will know if you were brilliant or foolish until it’s out the door.

Will your customers, prospects, colleagues, friends, followers share the same belief that your defect was only “minor”?  Or will they berate you for your lack of professionalism and excellence?

Michael Hyatt has a great post on this topic related to his blog writing and readers finding mistakes.  Also check out a second post from Michael about Embracing Permanent Beta.

Alpha is worse than you think.

Each time I ship a new version of Alpha software I learn a lot more when it is in the field.  The benefit is that you receive the direct benefit of quickly finding out what is flawed.

The Market Will Tell You.

Shipping early means you gain the benefit of your market, customers, followers, tribe, telling you what you’ve done wrong.

I believe it is better to ship 75% of the right solution to the market than waiting until you have 90% and you are late.

You will never be able to address all of the market needs from inside the walls of your company.

Microsoft has mastered this art of Don’t worry be crappy.

Every second Tuesday of the month they ship us a new Windows update, they know the market will instruct them on what’s crappy.

It’s crappy, now fix it.

Guy’s Rule # 2 is Churn Baby Churn.  Once you ship then you hear what is broken, the clock begins ticking.

Fix it fast.  Equally important is communicating with your customers, tribe, prospects or followers.

Straight from Guy 
Churn, baby, churn. I’m saying it’s okay to ship crap–I’m not saying that it’s okay to stay crappy. A company must improve version 1.0 and create version 1.1, 1.2, … 2.0. ….. Innovation is not an event. It’s a process.

Being Nimble is your advantage.

I have a friend whose son is a Marine.  He was explaining to me about how in battle, the commander is always making decisions with 70% of the available information.

The battle happens too fast to have 100% clarity on what is occurring on the actual battlefield.

The ability to have real-time course correction is the safety net to not knowing if your decision is correct.

The difference between us and Microsoft is that we have the opportunity to revise quickly.

Their big organization moves slow.  It is hard to turn around or quickly change course .  Not us, we are nimble.  

With a phone call, a bug fix delivered to the Cloud, an Elance job, email, Asana task to our virtual assistant-DONE.

Mean What you Say.

The promise that you extended to your customers or your tribe I’m reliable. We care.  You can call the CEO with a problem.  

All of those previous statements now are tested.  What will you do?  Do you care?  Will you fix it?  Do you have an answer at all?

Mr. Customer, I know this looks crappy.  And it is.  It is worse than we thought and we’ve got a team on it.  We will call you each day or email you with a close of business summary of our progress and findings.  Here is my personal cell phone you can call if you ever want an update.  I may not know the answer but I can find it.  

How fast you revise is critical to your survival and integrity in the market.

And if you can’t fix it, say so.

Art I’ve shipped that I knew was crappy

  1. This new website had some rough edges.
    I knew the comment section had some issues.  Yet I knew the overall design and feel was a massive improvement from V1.0.
  2. PriceAdvantage V1.0 gasoline pricing software Spring of 2005.
    This thing was riddled with problems.   One time all of the prices at the pump went to Zero $…..yes Zero $….FREE GAS.  And the store manager called our help desk to ask if she Should I refund the money of the guy who pre-paid $20 cash.  

Now it is your turn to tell your story.    

What project, product, Art have you shipped that you knew was crappy?

And what happened?

Would you do it over again?

  • Mark Chambers

    Hadn’t heard it put this way before, but so true! One of my life rules: Perfection is the enemy of the good enough!

    • Mark thanks again for the encouragement. Death to perfectionism!

  • Yes! You converted me on “ship it” three years ago. In some ways it’s the biggest risk for a perfection. But in time I realized there are risks both ways. And the risk to not ship is greater than the risk to ship. And the “shipping it” crappy has served as the primary tool to improve, redesign, 3.0 it until it was better than it would’ve ever been sitting on just another great idea I never shipped. Thanks for the leadership and encouragement…

    • Aaron McHugh

      Thanks Morgs. Your lack of perfection is the next guys best. Keep shipping and keep believing “good enough” is better than keeping the treasure to yourself. Amac

    • Morgs You and I both are our own worst enemy’s on measuring what is “good enough to ship”. And yet we seem to be making some forward progress on getting our Art out of the garage and into the world. Love http://www.becomegoodsoil.com a great example of V1.0 and V3.0 a year later.

  • When I was 16, I designed a set of birdhouses made from reclaimed barnwood and corrugated roofing. My dad and my art teacher wanted me to ship a set to a pretty prestigious art competition. I resisted. They wouldn’t let up. So I packed up a box, and literally shipped them (one was even broken, but it was the only one I had left). A few months later, I had 3 birdhouses on display in a museum in NYC, my name in the Times, and an awards ceremony to attend. We can kill ourselves by our own standards – sometimes we need the voice of those who know us well to help us get up the guts to ship it.

    Hey, great interview with Brett Kelly, the guy who created evernote essentials, a fantastic example of a guy who shipped it: http://www.therisetothetop.com/interesting-entrepreneur/brett-kelly-interview/

    • Aaron this is a great story. Love it. NY Times article, ceremony…..Yeah I agree where would we be without other people around us to say “hey you’re good at that….you should do more of it.” Guts to ship-true for me with this blog writing. For years people would say “you should write”. I thought…oh they are really kind. Shipping it! Will listen to Evernote interview. Thanks Again.

  • The worst advice I’ve ever received in business was “failure is not an option.” I love this post. Crappy is okay, just don’t stay crappy. That’s pretty awesome.

    • Ben-Thanks for weighing in on this topic. Yeah failure , I hear is a matter of perspective. I can’t say I am always settled with it but it does also seem to be a matter of definition. If you learn nothing then its a failure. If it does not work but you learned something…..Crappy wins.

  • jodyberkey

    I’m glad this article in your archived from 11 months ago caught my attention today. Steve and I struggle with this so much.

    Our MyTri triathlon training software has been in development for two years. We keep adding bells and whistles and paying for costly redesigns. Last month we finally had to put it on hold because we’re losing our shirts over it. (The databases aren’t connected, so it’s not functional to enable us to ship it in a crappy form.) We’ve stepped back and re-evaluated our plan. We’re moving forward with smaller, less robust, static training plans that are medically-based instead of a huge program that’s intuitive and responsive to your data. We’ll ship those as soon as they are crappy enough. 🙂

    This is a very timely message for us. Thanks!

    • ahhhh man. that is hard Jody. years, your heart, your ideas, your money all invested. So sorry to hear that. “re-evaluate our plan” don’t want to attempt to offer a balm that may not be helpful. Offer you my aches instead.

      • jodyberkey

        The dream’s not dead. We’re just charting a new, more nimble path to achieve it. We’ve learned a lot and wouldn’t trade it for a more direct route. God works in mysterious ways.

        I emailed Steve this post today. It was encouraging for both of us. It really got our wheels turning. If we only knew someone who was proficient in database and software development, a fellow free spirit and entrepreneur, someone doesn’t float in a Sea of Same, someone who is into triathlon, and someone who wanted to partner to finish MyTri for a percentage of the profits. Hmmmm, know anyone like that, Aaron? 🙂

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