Move fast and break things

By September 4, 2013Personal
cracked nut

cracked nut

Where does “Move fast and break things” come from?

Anyone in the web industry has heard about mark Zuckerberg’s famous quote “move fast and break things”. However, when i actually tried to dig in and find the origins it took quite a while. The quote is used quite a bit it actually took me over 10 google searches to find the true origin of this quote. Trust me, anytime you hit double digits you know that you are looking for something in-depth. Something deeper just like this quote. Unless you really take the time to think about it you are merely scratching the surface. Anyway, the quote looks to have first been used in a letter to investors before the initial Facebook IPO in 2012. It really was hidden within the letter, but rightfully it has been highlighted by many in the web industry since then.

Here is the full quote:

“We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.”

But, let’s face it: Zuckerberg is a douche. He is always wearing that silly hoodie and then there was that vapid movie, plus he is made a few less than ethical business decisions in the past. Because of all that, I have dismissed this quote plenty of times myself.

Zuckerberg "move fast and break things" quote

Is breaking things really a good thing?

Often we are too afraid to take the first step. There are many reasons for this: perhaps we do not know what step to take first, or because we do not want to mess with something that is working, or because we fear failure. I have realized that failure really doesn’t exist, but mistakes do. Mistakes are inevitable and we all must accept that we all make mistakes – some more than others. mistakes do not make you a bad person or make you a failure, instead they make you a more experienced person than others who did not have the guts to try. I see a direct correlation between mistakes and progress which then leads to success.

Just look around: there is not a single successful person in the world who has not made a mistake. In fact, the most successful people in the world made the most mistakes. Even though donald trump is known as a cannot-fail entrepreneur he has made plenty of terrible investment,  Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor “because he lacked imagination and had no good ideas”, and bill gates started a failed business called traf-o-data before finding success with Microsoft.

At first this whole concept scared me. then quite frankly it scared me even more. Most importantly, I never wanted to be like Facebook and just do things that users will then have to deal with and face potential backlashes.

Why my thoughts changed

I recently got over the my subjective grudge against Zuckerberg and revisited the famous quote again. moreover,  realized two things that really helped me change my mindset:

1) The user does not always know best. Sure, everyone complains when Facebook makes a change. I consider myself one of the more vocal people here. I even had my buddy create the meme below. however, quite frankly data acquired through primary research such as A/B testing is much more insightful than any anything a user could ever complain about. Numbers do not lie.

darth vader facebook

2) It can mean different things to different people. The mantra of ‘moving fast and breaking things’ can mean different things depending on the situation. I have been in positions where client restraints have made a straight-forward implementation of this mantra impossible.

My epiphany

If have you have made it this far, you are probably wondering what the picture at the top has to do with the topic of ‘moving fast and breaking things’. Well, I am a big believer that you have to break things to crack the proverbial nut.

office space fax machine picture

Moreover, I believe that a derivative of the this mantra is applicable and should be applied in all situations – no matter the restraints. here are some ideas:

  • Create a sandbox account to move fast and break things before applying anything to the real world.
  • Work behind the scenes in a staging or development environment to get things done.
  • No excuses: get in the mindset and stay in it for all projects. otherwise, you will never be ahead of the curve. No matter the restraints, if you work in the digital world you are doing your client a disservice if you are not moving fast – and by nature that means breaking things.
  • Think you are too big (or small  to ‘break things’? no you’re not. Either run a test with a small budget or use a small project to help the mantra spread throughout the organization.
  • Start thinking ‘done is better than perfect – sure to be the topic of a future blog post here on
  • Hand in hand with moving fast and breaking things goes another Mark Zuckerberg mantra code wins arguments – again this is sure to be a future blog past as it makes total sense to use as a mantra in any web profession.

Your turn

What do you think of a “move fast and break thing” mentality and my argument that it should be applied in all situations? Share your thoughts below.