Value of Making Mistakes

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In 2011 Netflix made an announcement that they’d be splitting into two companies:

  1. Netflix would focus on streaming &
  2. Qwikster (the new company) would focus on DVD rentals.

Netflix claimed they wanted to make it easier for customers and doing this gives both companies the best chance for success. The feedback was instantaneous & almost uniformly bad.

There were numerous reasons this separation didn’t work (it didn’t add any value for customers, costed more, required more work, was rushed, terrible name, etc. They made a mistake and that mistake cost them nearly 800,000 customers.

The most important part of the story is that two months later they reversed their position. They could have continued down the path of “I know best” but they didn't. They stopped all plans for Qwikster and haven't looked back. They started earning back the trust of their customers and they went on to dominate online streaming.

A Mistake

I was reminded of this story when I saw a tweet that when you enable the new shipping rates in WooCommerce 3.2 it automatically installs Jetpack.

There was some Twitter drama it was shared in some industry newsletters. I myself wasn't happy with this news. When a user clicks a button they should be able to predict the consequences ahead of time. You shouldn't install software without consent.

It was a mistake.

Minutes later the lead developer behind WooCommerce jumped into action and writes an update that fixes the confusing language. They merge it in and it will come out with the next release.

WooCommerce Setup Clarifying Language

Mike Jolley added a ton of clarifying language.

That's amazing. They make a mistake and less than a day later it's fixed.

Speed and Discernment

The core team moves fast and out of their thousands of changes in the last release they only had two bad areas with confusing language. I consider that a pretty awesome baseline. Add on top of that that they quickly realized they made a mistake.

When you can ship product quickly & reliably, discern your mistakes, and quickly fix them what else can you possibly want? Perfection?

I trust Netflix because they made a mistake and they learned from it. WooCommerce made a mistake and fixed it in less than 24 hours. That's stellar.

I love being able to see things like this that are usually behind the scenes. We can see the openness & transparency of the core team and their desire to do good. I hope WooCommerce goes on to dominate eCommerce like Netflix is dominating online streaming.

Making bold decisions means you're going to make mistakes. We need opinionated software that makes our lives better. Since you're developing everything in the open and we can see your intentions we'll forgive your occasional misstep. For right now keep doing awesome stuff.

2 thoughts on “Value of Making Mistakes

  1. Great article!

    I really liked the honoring of the mistakes and taking action on it. I also liked the part where WooCommerce has reacted and responded so quickly to help prevent conflicting and sensitive reactions from a lot of existing customers. This whole admitting process is critical to surviving in this technological age.

  2. Making mistakes is part of being human. It’s not the mistake that counts so much as how we react to them. Own it, apologize, fix it. Woo reacted well.

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