Michael He

February 12, 2022

Fast And Thoughtful

Can we be fast and thoughtful in terms of writing, making decisions, and so on? 

It is theoretically possible. Speed and quality are not mutually exclusive.  If we draw a 2x2 grid, one corner will say fast and high quality.

Of course, we know most things fall under the other three categories in reality: slow and high quality, fast and high quality, and fast and low quality. We have anecdotal examples for each category, but fast and high quality is perhaps the rarest kind.
 
The world rewards people that produce high-quality things (tangible and intangible) fast. Constraints in reality set the amount of premium.

There is a clear tradeoff between speed and quality, yet some people (and organizations by extension) seem to defy this conundrum.

The secret is to pull the future forward and let compounding do the work. In a sense, you are sowing the seeds in yesteryears so you can execute above expectation today. The cost is nicely depreciated while your output gets to compound during the time between preparation and now. Having patience is crucial for this process to work, because you need to trust the process to get to the destination. Otherwise you will always focus on the most urgent things that may not lead you to the best future outcomes via compounding.
 
There is a learning curve to pretty much everything we do. We can become faster, better through practice and optimization. Then we can become faster and better simultaneously, often by leveraging our knowledge and experience. Cooks can whip out omelets faster than most people, but that still happens one at a time (or however many pans your stove can handle). Meanwhile, songwriters can write songs that millions of people know by heart, but that process only needs to happen once. Similarly, Warren Buffett can make billions on one decision made in minutes with high accuracy. Creativity and decision making leverage much better than manufacturing or process knowhow.

Things will marinate and ferment in the background. They can catalyze our development in unexpected ways. Lateral thinking and a generalist approach are underrated in today's world. A software developer with a law degree will read incredibly fast and think deeply, which may enhance their coding aptitude, communications effectiveness, and business acumen all at the same time.

There is a hidden benefit to gearing towards speed and quality. Anyone that attempts to iterate in public for the sake of betterment will force self-evolution in the best possible way. You will receive constructive feedback. You will see your own progress in fresh perspectives. You will self correct quickly and effectively. The result is rapid improvement (often in orders of magnitude) within a short period of time.

Thanks to Patrick MacKenzie for writing about Stripe's culture. That inspired me to think about this in the first place.