"The reason why MVPs tend to suck is that they’re meant to be the first step on a path to clarity. The first anything is going to suck. You need to learn & iterate." —Ha Phan
This weekend I caught up with a founder to check in on the progress of her startup. It's been a few months since I caught up with her last and the product has come a long way in the detail and polish. It wasn’t like that when we first met. The product was rough on the design side and needed some love. However, it was real, functional, and allowed a conversation to improve. It was clear the team has been iterating on a new feature but a lot of polish and iteration—super impressive. Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a sequence of outcomes. This can be confused with divergent design, but it’s different. Iteration focuses on repetition which evolves in the final solution.
Iteration sparks movement, which builds momentum. It's like pedaling a bicycle on a lower gear instead of the highest. The lower gear won't get you as far but it requires less effort to get moving. My co-worker and friend Izzy once said, "The number one way to be productive is to reduce the iteration cycle." This is true. If you struggle with getting something creative done, reduce the iteration. Write the outline instead of the final draft, and come back to it later. Sketch out scribbles of the app design instead of trying to do it all in one sitting in Figma.
Creative work requires stepping away from the work to gain perspective and reflection. In springs of product development teams, this is why they do retros at the end of the sprint—to continuously improve on the work.
Give time to complete the iteration cycle. When you commit to an iteration cycle, see it all the way through. Being disruptive in the iteration process can result in flailing and thrash. Give the iteration time to complete to analyze and evaluate.
We as creatives and designers can get caught in the myth of our own genius. I love the quote from Austin Kleon's book "Keep going":
“When I’m working on my art, I don’t feel like Odysseus. I feel more like Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill. When I’m working, I don’t feel like Luke Skywalker. I feel more like Phil Connors in the movie Groundhog Day.”
Design is not magic. It's a method—a rigorous process of exploration, iteration, and validation until you reach your outcome.
There are more days I feel stuck than experiencing a breakthrough, but it's important to show up every day to iterate because each one might result in the breakthrough I was looking for. Ok the good days when you get a good result in the first iteration, imagine how the next iterations can make it great.