…draw out your ideas before you start coding them…: Jack Dorsey

Having a great idea is one thing. But being able to realize and execute on that idea is what matters.

At the 99% Conference last month in San Francisco, Twitter creator and co-founder Jack Dorsey gave a talk on how he was able to do just that: take a good idea and turn it into a flourishing company. In his talk, Dorsey identifies the three keys to success as he built and launched both Twitter and his latest project Square:

1. Draw out your ideas
2. Take advantage of luck and good timing
3. Iterate


Commit your ideas to paper before you worry about committing them to code. Get your idea out of your head so you can see it from a different perspective. And just as importantly, share it with others.

Dorsey speaks about an idea he’d had in 2000 when working as a dispatcher in New York, seeing people always reporting where they are and what they’re doing in various locations. Dorsey put the idea on paper, but put it aside.


This doesn’t mean relying on luck or good fortune. Rather you need to be able to recognize "luck." Learn to recognize good timing and good situations that make it practical for you to execute your idea.

Dorsey notes that it was the rise of certain technologies, along with working with Biz Stone and Evan Williams that allowed him to return to those ideas he’d sketched out in 2000 and to develop them more thoroughly, eventually into what became Twitter.

Dorsey also notes that the recent economic crisis has made it a good timing for his latest project Square, a device that allows anyone to make or accept a credit card payments via their phone or computer. As the business and financial sectors were in "survival mode," they were looking for innovation, according to Dorsey, and he was able to capitalize on this.


Take feedback. Learn to be an editor, listening to others’ input and shaping those ideas as they are put into practice.

Dorsey points to all the changes that Twitter has undergone since his initial idea, noting that many of things that are commonly accepted Twitter practices, including use of the @-symbol, the hashtag and the RT, were generated by users, not by the founding team themselves. Rather than being the sole creator of ideas, Dorsey says that Twitter has embraced the iterative process, becoming the editor of customer usage. Despite initially resisting some of these user practices, now it helps implement these user ideas and practices more smoothly.

Of course, Dorsey argues, you must know when to stop. If you draw and share your ideas, you will get instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t work. And if an idea doesn’t seem to work, put it aside. You can come back to it, or some part of it, later.

The entire video is available on the conference website, along with others from the 2010 and 2009 events.



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