Bre Pettis knows a thing or two about getting things done rather than getting them perfect: He’s the founder of Makerbot, a company that turns out cheap rapid prototyping machines. No one would say they’ve been perfectly realized, but a key to Makerbot’s success is that it has evolved in the real world, rather than foundering as just another great idea.
With that in mind, Pettis and collaborator Kio Stark gave themselves exactly 20 minutes to create a manifesto encapsulating everything they knew about bring a creative vision to life. They called it The Done Manifesto. Illustrator James Provost then took the extra step of turning their 13 maxims into a poster:
- There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
- Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
- There is no editing stage.
- Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
- Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
- The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
- Once you’re done you can throw it away.
- Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
- People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
- Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
- Destruction is a variant of done.
- If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
- Done is the engine of more.
At first glance, this list seems a little hyperbolic or silly: If you’re used to startup culture, you’ve been there, done that. If you haven’t worked at a startup, these maxims seem impossible.
But the funny thing about realizing a creative vision—whether it’s a startup or a personal project—is that it requires a set of working rules that is almost the opposite of the slow, careful deliberation that typically rules our working lives. Usually, you and I sit in meetings to figure out the best way to do something. That’s because the stakes are higher when you’ve already got a company and a brand to protect. But when you have nothing yet, those stakes go out the window. The most precious thing you have is momentum—the energy that will see your vision through.
I’ve been watching this firsthand lately, as a friend of mine has been trying to get an iPhone app company off the ground. While I’ve been urging greater polish and better functionality, the founders have simply been emphasizing progress at all costs. Even if that means making prototypes that are ridiculously bad. In other words, there is no editing stage and done is the engine of more. While my own instinct is to get things perfect, the founders realize that perfection is something that only happens after you have a product to actually perfect.
These maxims are really a super concise and clear way of restating one of the founding tenets of so-called design thinking: The idea of creating prototypes as soon as you can, and failing as fast as possible so you can evolve your way to something great. It isn’t to say that you have to make these failures public. But the failures have to be made and not just thought about. Get it done.