A young engineer, Sam Deriso, told me the following fascinating story. While attending a graduate level software testing class at Florida Institute of Technology a few years ago; his professor was teaching on when to stop testing the software, stop fixing bugs and just ship the software out. His point was, “When is it good enough to move out of the R&D phase and put the product on the market?”

The professor summed up his answer with the statement, “Don’t Worry, Be Crappy.” This PhD wasn’t advocating releasing inferior software on the public; rather, that there is only so far you can take any product or for that matter any training in the sterile environment of the lab or classroom. Eventually you have to jump into the water and either sink or swim.

No Guts, No Glory

What is interesting was the large software development company he used to illustrate his point: Microsoft. Though most of us became computer literate after the advent of Windows 2.0, 3.0, XP or Vista, we still remember the text based systems like MSDOS. There were no graphics and no point and click. Everything was done but typing commands at a screen prompt.

When Microsoft released Windows for the entire world to use, it was far from perfect. Microsoft knew that it had problems, called “bugs.” They used the brightest minds to create this radically new operating system and spent thousands of hours testing it and working out its defects. However, they knew that perfecting the software was not possible due to its complexity, yet they were hesitant to release something which they knew had inherent flaws. Like any company they were concerned with what people would think. Would they still like their program even if it wasn’t perfect? At some point they had to put it in the stores and sell it.

Patches, Service Packs and Pest Control

Many of us remember the “Blue Screen of Death”. There were growing pains that Microsoft had to go through. When the users ran into bugs, the software would malfunction and would sometimes cause lots of problems. Microsoft would analyze the problem and create a fix for it called “patches” and “service packs”. Of course, Microsoft would not have survived if they did not fix the unexpected problems that arose only after their software was being used in real life.

Yet, Microsoft would not be giant it is, capturing almost 90% of the market, had they failed to realize their software would be a work in progress and took the step to release it to the public.

Despite the initial difficulties and setbacks, the Windows operating system has changed the way we live our lives. Our home computers and cell phones are capable of performing an ever increasing number of tasks that could not be done with a command prompt.

Likewise, in our quest to grow, whether that is personally, relationally or in a business endeavor, waiting for the ideal time or to insure our skills sets are adequately honed, can blind us to the reality that often it is only on the playing field that we learn where we need to grow and adjust. What is more, we can often prevent growth in others, but not releasing responsibility to them that provides the opportunity to succeed or fail. Therefore, let’s purpose to develop our talents and refine your skills, but most importantly to invest those talents in action. Don’t Worry, Be Crappy!