Thinking and Doing, Zuckerberg Style

I've talked earlier about something called the "Think/Do" cycle — the process of moving between thinking about what you should do and doing it. Most of the innovation literature has, to date, been focused on coming up with new ideas (thinking a lot; thinking better; thinking out of the box, etc…). Recently, thanks to design thinking, lean startups, lean launchpad, and other emerging conversations around innovation, popular advice is starting to emphasize words like doing, testing, experimentation, prototyping, and iterating. The challenge is finding the balance.

It's a classic goldilocks problem.  There's an escalating cost to both thinking and doing. In the long run, spending too much time doing without thinking is as dangerous as too much thinking without doing.

Learning how to cycle between thinking and doing is a core part of our curriculum. It's something we emphasize almost daily with our proto-entrepreneurs. But like any simplified recipe, it brings on its own dangers — times when an entrepreneur feels like they're following this process, but it's working against them.  

Here's one of the traps: getting caught thinking and doing at the same time. This happens when you're so focused on your next pivot that you don't invest enough in what you're doing now. While thinking and doing average out, the experience is far more binary. On or off. 

This allows you to set aside all of the thoughts about what you're going to do next and focus on building the best solution (or part of the solution) that you can and building it completely. After all, it's practically impossible to notice, let alone accept, hard truths from the results of half-assed efforts. So make sure that, when you set out to do something, you're all in. Or, as Napoleon once said, "Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in."

Mark Zuckerberg does a nice job in a "30-second MBA" spot on FastCompany to show how Facebook keeps a culture of unadulterated doing within the company.