Speed matters more than you think

Last updated: 2022-09-03

Going fast has unappreciated benefits:

  • Speed gets you where you want quicker (obvious).
  • Speed not only allows you to complete the same activities faster, but also unlocks completely new activities. For example, faster typing unlocks the ability to take a transcript rather than bullet point notes.
  • Speed increases learning by passing through more feedback loops.
  • Speed shortens backlogs. When you do things quicker, you avoid the overhead that comes from having to postpone tasks until later. You can simply do them now.
  • Speed allows you to complete tasks in a reduced number of sessions, which reduces the switching cost incurred when repeatedly picking up and dropping work.
  • A small speed increase in the short term could result in huge increases in the long term due to the effect of compounding improvements.

Successful startups seem to prioritise speed to an extraordinary degree:

  • From Inside Paypal:

    "Refusal to accept constraints, external or internal: We were expected to pursue our #1 priority with extreme dispatch (NOW) and vigor.

    Keith Rabois, former Executive Vice President of Paypal
  • From Sam Altman's experience with YC founders:

  • Facebook has made famous the "move fast and break things" mentality.

  • Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, collects a great list of "fast" projects.

  • Patrick McKenzie on what it is like to work at Stripe:

    The returns to pushing your cadence to faster are everywhere and they compound continuously, for years. Don’t send the email tomorrow. Don’t default to scheduling the meeting for next week. Don’t delay a worthy sprint until after the next quarterly planning exercise. Design control and decisionmaking structures to bias heavily in favor of preserving operating cadence.

    A stupendous portion of that advantage is just consistently choosing to get more done. That sounds vacuous but hasn’t been in my experience. I have seen truly silly improvements occasioned by someone just consistently asking in meetings “Could we do that faster? What is the minimum increment required to ship? Could that be done faster?”

See Also

See also: Speed matters less than you think