In other words, what matters is relative speed

In this article, I add another crucially important but hidden game…
Inside The Hidden Game Of Speed
Frankly, I avoided speed. I avoided it until I noticed that top innovators weren’t just talking about it; they were swearing by it.
I came to this hidden game of speed as I read all the books on, and listened to over 100 interviews of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other innovators. Then, I went deeper by reading Blitzscaling by legendary Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, Certain To Win about the greatest fighter pilot in history, Business @ The Speed Of Thought by Bill Gates, Lean Startup by thinker and entrepreneur Eric Ries, Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Markets by management consultant George Stalk, Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control In The Age Of Temporary Advantage by MIT researcher Charles Fine and Speed As A Habit by public company CEO, Dave Girouard.
Here’s what I missed at first that most other people also miss…
How The Game Of Speed Is Underappreciated
I associated speed with being hurried, working long hours, low quality work, and feeling overwhelmed. I was wrong. There was a lot of nuance I didn’t appreciate — nuance like the quote below offers…
“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
— John Wooden (most successful college basketball coach of all time)
As I dug deeper, I realized that speed isn’t fundamentally about “doing more” or “running faster.” Rather, it is more a way of thinking. For example, I noticed the innovators were actually talking about two things: execution speed and learning speed. Both are important, but they’re not the same. More on this later.
In this in-depth article, I will show you how speed can be the game changer you’re looking for to get ahead in your career and business whether or not you’re an entrepreneur.
To start, I want to show you some of the breadcrumbs I came across as I did my research that made me feel like I was missing something by not digging deeper on speed.
These Quotes Show How The World’s Top Innovators Swear By Speed
“Speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win. Speed is a defining characteristic — if not the defining characteristic — of the leader in virtually every industry you look at.”
Dave Girouard, founder CEO of Upstart (public company), and former president of Google Enterprise Apps
“For pretty much any technology whatsoever, the progress is a function of how many iterations do you have, and how much progress do you make between each iteration.”
Elon Musk
“Everybody must realize that if you don’t meet customer demand quickly enough, without sacrificing quality, a competitor will.”
Bill Gates
“When people ask me that question, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ I always say speed.”
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
“The only way to win is to learn faster than everybody else.”
Eric Ries, creator of Lean Startup Movement
“Before product-market fit… just care about speed of iteration according to your customer feedback. So in terms of hiring, get people that can help you build the product faster… anything that minimizes the time between observing a need or a problem, and the execution or the fix for it.”
Patrick Collison, self-made billionaire founder of Stripe
“I still underestimate the compounding power of the rapid execution and iterated learning feedback loop. A commitment to this, over the course of a career, is the closest thing you can get to guaranteed success.” (Nov 24, 2020)
Sam Altman, former president of Y Combinator (world’s largest accelerator) and co-founder of OpenAI (with Elon Musk)
“Instead of launching a finely polished gem, companies now release a ‘minimum viable product,’ then get immediate feedback from customers, incorporate that feedback into the next iteration, release a slightly upgraded version, and repeat. Instead of design cycles that last years, the agile process takes weeks and produces results directly in line with consumer expectations.”
Peter Diamandis, creator of X-Prize
In addition, for the first seven years of Amazon’s existence, the core motto internally was “get big fast.” So central was this idea that at one company picnic, every one of the hundreds of employees was given a T-shirt that read, “Get Big Fast . . . Have Another Hot Dog!” For the first ten years of Facebook’s existence, the core motto was “move fast and break things.” When Google launched, Yahoo was the #1 search engine. Google’s core differentiating feature was load speed. Finally, the first book by Bill Gates is about speed.
Bottom line: Almost all of the world’s largest modern companies and top innovators had speed as their №1 value at one point or still do.
But, if you look closely, there is also a deeper lesson to be had from these quotes. The innovators aren’t just talking about one type of speed…
Execution Speed ≠ Learning Speed

In other words, what matters is relative speed, not absolute speed. If two people or companies are competing against the other, the one who is slightly faster has a huge edge, because the one going slower is constantly reactive and disoriented.
The greatest fighter pilot in US history, John Boyd, explains this disorientation phenomenon in one of his briefings:
“The ability to operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than an adversary enables one to fold the adversary back inside himself so that he can neither appreciate nor keep up with what is going on. He will become disoriented and confused…” — John Boyd

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