Some think that finding innovative solutions to challenging problems is product of luck or chance, but in reality iteration plays a major role in many innovations.
Image courtesy of Timo Elliot via TimoElliott.com Blog
Is innovation something so disruptive that it changes the status quo? For instance the way Apple changed the way the world listened to and purchased music. Or is innovation also a new and better way to do something? The way Apple’s touch interface was introduced to a whole line of existing devices. Can’t innovative solutions just be iterations that result in a better product or service? While many articles pit innovation against iteration, at 9Lenses we believe that innovation and iteration are two sides of the same coin.
Nathan Hall, Product Manager & Data Scientist at 9Lenses talks about how innovation comes with iteration. “Innovation does not happen on the first try. Rather, innovation is an iterative process with the goal of improving lives. Iteration is hardwired into the 9Lenses process, both for us and for our customers. The 9Lenses platform has gone through several iterations. When our customers use the 9Lenses Interview Engine and Analytics Platform, they can gather a wide variety of data and ideas for their company. This organizational intelligence guides innovative solutions that positively impact their customers and employees.”
Iterate to innovate
Few innovative solutions have ever truly come into being without several botched attempts to create it, unless by accident. Think back to inventions like the steam engine, Edison’s bulb, or even recent innovations like cloud storage, Pinterest or the iMac. While innovators may have bright ideas, without several rounds of iteration to perfect an offering, their ideas could fizzle out by the time they hit the real world. And if history is anything to go by, you don’t stop with just one version of your product, especially not with the first version! Edison did not actually invent the lightbulb, but reportedly tried out over a staggering 6,000 plant species for the filament alone in order to make the bulb commercially viable.
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Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
And then iterate some more
Many creative minds are often quoted saying that the very process of iteration has often resulted innovation. A famous quote by Thomas Edison states, “None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Picture all the times we went down a path to develop an idea and ended up with something unbelievably different and even better than what we originally imagined. If all innovators and inventors limited his or her results to a single or even a few attempts, then the majority of the products we enjoy today likely wouldn’t exist.
Improvements between each iteration can be made either through luck or by careful observation and calculation. With modern day advances in technology, iteration can be done far cheaper and faster than in times past. Now we can use 3D printing to create prototypes of physical products or computer modeling to simulate the physical world. With this lower cost and faster speed, there is no reason that iteration should stand in the way of innovation.
With innovation, especially in the software sector reaching an unprecedented pace, iteration is now more important than ever and even Bill Gates attests to this fact. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates stated that, “Innovation in California is at its absolute peak right now. Sure, half of the companies are silly, and you know two-thirds of them are going to go bankrupt, but the dozen or so ideas that emerge out of that are going to be really important.” Now more than ever is the time for people and companies to shrug the rigid definition of innovation. We need to embrace iteration as an integral part of innovation, because honestly, without iteration, we could see the death of innovation.
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