Authors and entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write in their book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work
that when you’re considering an update to your product or service, it can help to ask, What if you did nothing?
As they point out, it’s easier to make something worse than it is to genuinely improve it: “But we commonly delude ourselves into thinking that more time, more investment, more attention is always going to win.”
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson tell the story of how they successfully applied the do-nothing approach to a planned revamp of how customers use their software product Basecamp.
The plan was to replace the old way of using Basecamp with a new way, which would involve migrating data, converting formats, and a totally different user experience.
But for customers who like the old way, or simply value their familiarity with it, taking that away “is a violent act, not a gentle one.”
So halfway through the project they asked themselves, What if we did nothing?
And that’s what they did – nothing. No forced migration, no requirement to learn something new, and no hard claims about how “this is actually better.”
The new way of using Basecamp would only be for new customers, and existing customers could continue using the old way (or opt into the new one if they preferred).
In the end, doing nothing was the best option: customers were happier, it narrowed the scope of the project, reduced the amount of work required to complete it, and shaved weeks off the deadline.
Sometimes, doing nothing can be the hardest choice but also the best one. It’s important to recognize that in some cases “time in doesn’t equal benefits out.”