‘’Move fast, break things, get on with it,’’ Words of renowned media personality Caroline Mutoko during a recent event, targeting women.

Time and again, this ideology has been at the center of motivational talks without much context on its meaning, sustainability and impact. Could it be the reason why ‘’46% of Kenya’s SMEs close within a year and another 15% a year after that’’? (Kangethe, 2018)

In this article, we will be talking briefly about the repercussions of moving fast and in contrast, highlighting the importance of strategy to run a business and surviving in an ever changing era.

‘’Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.’’ Mark Zuckerberg.

Move fast with Mark

Caroline Mutoko and Mark Zuckerberg are not the only public speakers who have used this extract in their talks, to motivate and inspire people to take action. A mantra initially developed in the Silicon Valley, the quote has been widely used in motivational books, talks and across various platforms such as Ted Talks, to encourage people to believe in themselves and take risk.

Author Jonathan Taplin with his book Move fast and break things, has received many accolades among which: ‘’A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice; An Amazon Best Business & Leadership Book of the year; Longlisted for Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year; A strategy+business Best Business Book of the year and An Inside Higher ED Best Book of the year.

move fast book

To what extend should an individual or organization break things? Does it apply to a specific industry? Is moving fast an indicator of self-confidence? Well, several researches have been conducted highlighting the link between self-belief and risk taking. In an article titled: The relation between self-confidence and risk-taking among students, Author Beyrambibi Bayat reminds us of the meaning of those two terms: ‘’Self-confidence means recognizing your abilities, self-interest, and being aware of your feelings. Risk-taking is one of the personality traits that may be affected by confidence.’’

When I look back at my own entrepreneurship journey, it is the confidence I had that made me take the bold step of venturing into business, despite not having the necessary skills to manage an organization. Being confident helped me see the opportunities “the what could be” rather than the inconveniences “what if, it does not work?” Self-confidence does play a role and pushes someone to move fast and break things. It is also one of the reasons I spent years making mistakes before going back to the drawing board.

‘’Move fast and break things’’ is a motto that has been dominantly used in three major industries: technology, engineering and science to showcase the importance of innovation to advance researches, deal with the most pressing problems of our time and spur economic growth. While neural networks have been used in many security systems to reinforce data and safety, in the banking industry, artificial intelligence has been used to review loan application and informing critical decisions. In certain countries of Africa, people can now charge their phone using solar, use bracelets and watches that encourage a better lifestyle and use crypto currency to make purchases. What an incredible world!

There is however a difference between taking risk and gambling.

Moving fast and breaking things have led people to commit suicide due to loss of assets, has broken families, endangered lives, and forced many businesses to close shop. There is so much that need to be put into perspective when setting and growing a business, than meet the eye.

What is the size of the organization, what are the systems of governance, what industry is the company operating from, what is the individual impact the organization aspires to create, what is the ecosystem of the organization? Are some of the questions that must be considered.

A good example is one of Kenya’s most respected brand - Equity Bank. Created in 1984, Equity was declared insolvent in 1993 and had to redefine, reinvent and rebrand itself to survive. From a mortgage financing firm, Equity converted into a microfinance firm before becoming ‘’the largest bank in terms of customer base in Africa’’, (Equity, 2019). Great businesses are not built by breaking things. They require strategic decisions, strategy, resources and much more.

 

Breaking things can have serious repercussion in one’s business, as Mark Zuckerberg would eventually come to know. Some revelations during the US Presidential election indicated that a company dubbed Cambridge Analytica ‘’acquired illegally the personal data of 85 million Facebook users to elect Donald Trump. This led to the company’s filing for bankruptcy and Mark Zuckerberg, testifying in the US senate,’’ (Alexandrou, 2018). ISIS have had in the past various social media accounts that have eventually been shut down. Despite the fact that Facebook is a profit making organization, it still has social responsibility towards its clients. Mark mantra eventually shifted from ‘’move fast, break things’’ to “move fast with stable infrastructure,” bringing into perspective the importance the law, culture and social context play in a business.

Move fast Mark2

In an ever evolving world, moving fast is critical to innovate and bring change. However, this mantra has some limitations and cannot be exploited in every industry. As motivational speakers continue to use it to bring people to action, wisdom should be used when making business decisions. As indicated earlier the size of the company and the industry it operates from should also be analyzed. Indeed policy makers, great innovators have all taken risk by challenging the status quo. Their self-confidence coupled with a strong internal desire for change, propelled them to jump into the unknown and to continue fighting their cause.

However, if we want to create great businesses that stand the test of time, then breaking things is not the smartest strategy.