More than five years ago, Zuckerberg amended Facebook’s “move fast & break things” mantra, to “move fast with stable infra”.

‘Infra” stands for infrastructure – still moving too fast to write the whole word, huh Zuck?

It was intended as a coding mantra not, (I hope) a business ideology per se.

And yet, “move fast and break things” was adopted as exactly that.

It’s a pernicious ideology that exists today.

We are obsessed with speed.

This obsession with speed is worrying. But what worries me more is that breaking things has become a desirable outcome.

This week I met up with my friend Gary. He shared a story with me. He used to run an agency with his brother, and they had a client, who, in a former life was in advertising.

Way back in the 1980s (before British Gas was privatised), this client of Gary’s was involved in pitching an advertising campaign to them.

The strapline?

GAS

YOUR FRIENDS

Or possibly:

GAS,

YOUR FRIENDS

Or possibly:

GAS:

YOUR FRIENDS

Punctuation is important, however in this instance, I don’t think even a well-placed comma, or colon can save this strapline.

How does stuff like this happen? How did this advertising concept make it to the pitch?

I have never worked in advertising, but I too, have had to deliver creative concepts to crazily tight deadlines.

There’s never enough time allowed for creative work, and that can be problematic.

Because when creative concepts are delivered under extreme time-pressure, we lose the space to reflect on whether or not what we’re delivering is actually a sound idea.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.

Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.

Leonardo da Vinci

You cannot judge the merit of an idea when you’re too close to it. You can’t see the flaws.

I know this, and yet, all too often I would find myself desperately up against a deadline and I would forgo that time to reflect. Sometimes I’d get away with it – the ideas I was pitching actually were pretty sound. Other times, they weren’t.

So I can totally understand how “GAS YOUR FRIENDS” was pitched.

I’ve pitched more than a few similarly ill-thought out concepts too. But I don’t think we should be celebrating that kind of work.

But we can’t just go slowly all the time, right? We’d never launch anything.

Ann Handley has been talking about rethinking ASAP the benefits of going slowly at the right moments.

She’s coined the term AsAP “as slow as possible” and created this framework for when to think and act fast or slow:

Depending on your point of view, I think that creative concepts (for advertising, or otherwise) sit either in the top left or top right square of Ann Handley’s matrix (because this sort of work is likely to be seen by a lot of people, and as such there’s the potential to have a high impact on others).

On this basis we should be “thinking as slowly as possible” – i.e. leaving as much time for reflection as possible; and then, either acting slowly, or acting fast (depending on the relative urgency of getting that work out into the world).

This framework resonates strongly with me.

Moving slowly and considering things is a mantra that (I suspect) would lead to better work, and breaking fewer things.

And I think that’s a very good thing indeed.

Image credits: xkcd & Ann Handley

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