Ask Early, Ask Often

Written on August 31 in the year 2019

Ship early, ship often. It’s a common phrase in the startup world. The idea behind it is to get an MVP to market as fast as possible and then iterate on it as frequently as possible. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing this, and I agree with the sentiment of it to some extent. But, what happens if it turns out you ship too fast? That you’ve brought to market a product that doesn’t actually matter to consumers? I think it’s important to ship, and then iterate based on data gleaned from user research, but there needs to be more than just this.

I think a valuable idea that needs to be paired with shipping early and often is ‘ask early, ask often.’ There have been too many times where I’ve been afraid to ask questions, too worried about how I may be perceived. I can’t overstate how many times this has backfired, it’s probably a 1:1 ratio where every time I’ve been afraid to ask a question it’s followed by regret somewhere down the line, either sooner or later, but definitely down the line somewhere.

I need to constantly remind myself that it’s okay to ask questions, and that most of the time people are happy to help however they can. There’s an idea that gets tossed around in agile which rougly states ‘the least amount is known about a feature at the very beginning of its inception’ (like I said, roughly states). The only way to learn more about something, anything, is to ask. Asking early means learning more about what things are important in a feature and what things are negotiable. Asking early helps mitigate unpleasant surprises down the line.

So by all means, ship early and ship often, and accompany this mentality with asking early and asking often. Pairing these ideas together leads to a better and more enjoyable building process.