How to ship early and often

August 13, 2022 (1y ago)

It's easy to find excuses to not create and ship consistently, whatever your role, you've likely heard or said some of these shipping avoidance phrases before:

  • It's not ready yet
  • What if it breaks in production
  • It just needs one more round of review
  • We haven't set up analytics yet
  • What if people hate it

We all have good intentions, but as creators, of anything: emails, products, code, blog posts, videos you name it - pressing publish can at times feel like an impossible task.

That's probably why we so often reach for the comfortable checklist completing option and the easy dopamine hit of the green check and strikethrough text, instead of focusing on the hard work that is really meaningful to our progress.

The problem with not shipping consistently is that for our work to actually be valuable, to actually serve an audience beyond ourselves it needs to be accessible, it needs to be usable, it needs oxygen.

Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world. Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress

In my own journey from "growth hacker" (yes it makes me feel gross too), to product designer, developer, content marketer and now founder (which I'm using as a place to put all the hats) is that the need to ship consistently is not only ever present but also commonly a primary indicator of success.

One thing I find particularly interesting is that shipping is often viewed as a destination. I published my blog post, I deployed my code, I presented my design.

But in reality shipping is just a moment in the ever extending life cycle of our work.

The first thing we ship will almost certainly be wrong (sorry but it's true) so that begs the question, how can we make shipping AND being wrong so ok and comfortable that we do it consistently?

How can we lower the bar?

Before everyone complains I'm advocating for shipping poor work let's discuss some examples of how we can lower the bar, lower risk, and ship more consistently.

  • Reduce the fidelity - Maybe producing a Marvel movie is a stretch but shooting on iPhone?
  • Reduce the scope - You can't boil the ocean but a small kettle will sing.
  • Repurpose an existing idea - Not everything needs to be net new, present an old idea in a new context.
  • Shadow box - One of my favorites, start with an existing example and gradual replace elements with your own.
  • Ask for help - Not everything needs to be a solo effort, add experts to support your skills.

Shifting the mindset from "this work is final and must be perfect", to "this is version 0.1 which can be improved once I get feedback" is an empowering thought.

Shipping is ultimately just one step in the continuous learning loops needed to produce world class work.

So with all that said, here's a thing I shipped this week:

The first episode of a new show I've been working on with the Arrows team called Happy Customers.

It's an exploration into a more narrative style of podcast with a higher level of production than the unfiltered interview shows I've shipped before. Putting anything new out into the world is a scary but I'd love to hear what you think.

What's something you've put out into the world (or have sitting on your hard drive) that you'd like to give some oxygen to?