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The Value of a ‘Miracle’

One of the toughest parts about owning your own creative business is having to keep secrets. During my time at the Iconfactory, we’ve had to wear many projects close to our sleeves for months, sometimes even years until the day comes when we finally can talk about them. This philosophy doesn’t just extend to our paying clients however, it also covers our internal projects.

Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way what happens when you let competitors know what your up to. If you’re lucky they merely get a jump on your idea, but sometimes, for one reason or another, they manage to beat you to market. This is one reason why I subscribe to the Montgomery Scott school of thought when it comes to product announcements. Named after the famous engineer from my beloved Star Trek, the theory is simply this: Under sell and over deliver.

By setting realistic expectations in the minds of your customers, they are pleasantly surprised when you manage to exceed them. This is how Scotty got his reputation for being a “miracle worker” on Star Trek. It’s also why we don’t typically like to give sneak peeks or announce dates for freeware and software releases at the Iconfactory unless we’re very close to releasing something. By doing this we keep competitors guessing and limit dangerous over-hyping.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the best way to keep expectations in check is not to create them in the first place. Unfortunately, this approach fuels rumors and leads some to conclude total inaction. My response to these people can be summed up in a recent tweet from my friend and colleague, Craig Hockenberry who said “When I appear to be doing nothing is when I am doing the most.”

We always have something new coming down the assembly line at the factory. I’d love nothing more than to run shouting to Twitter what we’re up to on any given day, but that would only lead to user heartache. We also firmly believe that if you’re going to do something, it’s worth doing right. So remember – just because you don’t have access to engineering, it doesn’t mean we’re not busy installing the latest dilithium crystals.

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  1. Great post. For me, it’s been a constant struggle to find the right balance in this. Overpromising and underdelivering is one of the worst things you can do, but you do need to be either in tune very well as a team or as a person to estimate your own performance well.

    Under selling and over delivering by a wide margin is always possible, though.

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