The Perilous Road To Shipping

There is much discussion and admonishment these days about shipping. The discussion typically goes something like this: “You know the problem with you? You don’t ship. You need to just push your product out, even in a rough state, then iterate your way to marketplace brilliance. You should look back and be embarrassed of your first iteration.”

But is this (growing, prevalent) sentiment really the best strategy?

Not to play both sides of the argument, but I think the answer is it depends. In the effort to motivate to the extreme, we often make the shipping conversation too simple.

(1) It’s possible to work, tweak and perfect your project to death until you squeeze all of the life out of it, or you miss your market opportunity. This is the kind of mindset that the “shipper” evangelists are typically targeting and I agree with them. However…

(2) There is also a reckless kind of shipping that pushes work out into the wide world pre-maturely and without forethought or empathy for the end user. This mindset makes dangerous assumptions about the willingness of consumers to go with you on the journey of iteration and development. The reality is that you often get one shot with the consumer and if you release a product lacking empathy or that isn’t there yet you will never get a second chance.

This is one of the dangerous side effects of the echo chamber of the social web. Memes become mantras become methodology. Soon everyone is frantic to ship fast so that they don’t become the target of mockery or accusation.

So here’s my thought on the matter: if you are not shipping because of fear of rejection or perfectionism, get over it. Ship. If you’re not shipping because your gut tells you that the product really isn’t ready for primetime, then get it right but do it quickly. The market won’t wait for you, but releasing a sloppy product is sometimes a worse death than being a little late.

So how about you? How do you deal with the shipping mandate?



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