Improve Innovations Through Iteration

Here’s a great quote from Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky:

Defending yourself in advance against all the possible ramifications of success has strong diminishing returns. As a general rule, it is more important to try something new, and work on the problems as they arise, than to figure out a way to do something without having any problems.

I’ll go one further and say that trying to figure out a way to do something without having any problems is actually impossible. Trying to make an idea perfect before we try it is the same as saying “we’re not really going to try it.”

New ideas must be executed – they are no good to anyone if they’re just ideas. The best approach is to build, launch and tweak. The way to do this is to figure out if the idea is executable (build), get it out in the world (launch), get feedback on what works and what doesn’t and fix the things that don’t work (tweak). Then repeat.

Our great new ideas will become great innovations by improving through iteration.

(here’s Phil Long’s take on Cognitive Surplus…)

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “Improve Innovations Through Iteration

  1. Hi Tim,

    Indeed iterations are truly important as is the understanding that you’ll never be perfect before you get wet feet.

    I do think though lot’s of companies rush their innovations to the market without testing them in a real-life though small environment.. Most will put some prototypes to the test, but hardly the end-to-end experience that goes with the new product or service… All will work fine technically, but then the experience of acquiring, installing, working etc etc kicks in.. lots of failure points that are mostly not taken into consideration when testing.

    One should not forget that innovations for Customers are as much innovations to the organization and it’s employees/partners etc..

    Thus prototyping and real-life testing in small environments (which could be niche markets or alike), could prevent a lot of big-time failures. It is better to fail fast (and cheap) and get some first rounds of e2e iterations before the innovation sees light for the many..

    What do you think?

    Wim Rampen
    @wimrampen on Twitter

  2. Its the old argument between big bangers Vs tweakers.

    I’ve always been a fan of continuous incremental change.

    There are a load of great ideas coming from quantum science (uncertainty) and Bio Science (self organisation, complexity, networks, iteration and fractals).

  3. I’m a continuous incremental change guy too Martin… I definitely agree with you about the ideas coming from science – I try to incorporate several of those in my research. Thinking about the economy as a complex adaptive system is how I ended up primarily studying networks.

  4. Big banging probably comes from engineering mechanical midsets and in many engineering projects you have to get it right first time otherwise people might die.

    Its all about risk.

    Reducing risk helps innovation.

    Iteration with adaptation seems a lot more organic to me.

  5. UNLESS you are going in circles it’s all iterative –
    innovation goal is to break out of that useless loop
    and move forward (a change from where you were). But then when you get there, there you are! UNLESS,,,

    Seems the real challenge continues for “Changing the way we manage change..” (but I repeat myself, again..

Comments are closed.