We get this a lot: “How do you guys get so much done with such a small team? 5 products, a book, Rails, and a popular blog. We have a lot more money, people, hardware, and technology than you do, but we can’t seem to get anything done. What’s the secret?”

There are two prisoners. Each have their own cell and no cellmates.

Both want to break out. One has a jackhammer and the other a spoon.

The jackhammer is clearly the better tool to break though concrete, block, brick. But it’s loud, big, requires a power source, it’s expensive and hard to hide. You can’t be subtle with a jackhammer. Small mistakes become huge mistakes with a jackhammer. It’s all or nothing with a jackhammer. It’s handy if you are breaking up a concrete sidewalk, but breaking out of a concrete prison is another story.

The spoon is for eating soup. But it’s subtle, quiet, utilitarian, maneuverable, human powered, easy to conceal, easier to repair or replace. It may take a lot longer, but you stand a much better chance.

Brute force (jackhammer) may get things done, but a whole lot more can go wrong—loudly. Subtlety (spoon) gives you more room to work. More opportunities to say no, to slow down, to make better decisions along the way, to change direction.

Pouring tons of money, tons of resources, and tons of people at a problem is like using a jackhammer to break out of jail. Putting a few smart people on the problem, embracing constraints, not trying to solve the wrong problems, focusing on precision, not using seven words when four will do, and taking the time to get it done right is like using the spoon.

We use the spoon.