The American special forces operators have a slogan: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Meaning If you can work smoothly, the work tends to go faster. If you watch an expert at a job that involves working with their hands, their movements are always smooth. By being smooth, they don't have to waste as much time correcting mistakes. The best way to be smooth is to take it slow and not rush yourself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept lately. Jocelyn K. Glei has a whole podcast dedicated to this concept of “slow is fast”. It's called Hurry slowly, and I can’t recommend it enough. She pushes back against the conventional wisdom that “busy is better,” and as I notice myself doing more work with my hands I’m starting to understand the concept.
The tech or online world are big proponents of MVP’s or minimum viable products. The concept is easy, make a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development. The key is future development. With an application, you can make changes almost immediately and improve it with feedback from customers making the product better and better over time.
Now trying to translate this concept to physical goods is tricky. The more I try to get a simple prototype out the door, the more I realise that there’s no such thing as MVP with physical goods. Once you’ve sold a product to a customer, you can’t update to a new version. You can’t improve any “bugs” or add new features. It has to be perfect before you ship it. This means really getting into every detail and thinking about every use-case to make sure what you put out into the world is as close to perfect as you can get, there’s no place to hide.
This brings me back to the idea of slow is fast. The faster I try to get the prototype done, the slower I seem to go. I make mistakes and end up having to start again. It’s a great lesson to learn. I need to slow down, take my time and really concentrating on what I’m doing.
The great side effect is I’m starting to enjoy the process immensely. You get into the “flow state” where time flies by without you realising. It’s very satisfying and I haven’t managed to feel like this in a long time. I'm also doing less in the grander scheme of the project, but I'm starting to move quickly and I can see the final prototypes being done pretty soon. I mean completely done and not some watered down half-baked version, but rather a whole finished product.
Of course, I’m also more relaxed and happy. I’m less anxious and stressed which of course equals more creativity and I end up being more productive in general. Who would have thought?
So take it slow, you be might be surprised at the results.
Remember to be thoughtful and kind.