Incrementally making something better does not sound very appealing. Place it against the words – innovation, disruption, creativity, new trend or category, ground breaking, impactful, first to offer, and others and it sounds downright boring.
Jason Fried (from 37 Signals, Basecamp software, and the book “Rework”), recently posted on X(formerly Twitter) on what he sees as a missing component in education. Developing the skill of iteration. The web defines iteration as: the act of iteration as it occurs through repetition. Working on something. Makings small changes to improve it. Then going back and doing it again and again. Having others look at your work and then suggesting further improvements.
Iteration as a process to incrementally make things better is more common than we think. All of the fancy words to compare it against are very rare and not easily attainable. But every day, we have multiple opportunities to incrementally make things better. Ironically in ways that do involve creativity, innovation and disruption but on a much smaller scale. Where impact can be clearly seen in months and years and not hours or days. Because nothing changes instantly. We don’t become an expert overnight. Nor do we become a pro athlete the next day.
Our cooking skills, reading, writing or exercise habits, developing an idea further, improving our relationships, leadership skills, weight loss tactics, how we do our work, raise our families and so on. We can improve everything incrementally around us every day. Where repeated attempts, adding or changing one or two things at a time, begin to make a real difference. Building upon the improvement or change we just made and then repeating the process over and over.
Evolution can be thought of in this way. All forms of life trying to survive by adapting to their environments. Either through genetic mutations or self selection where only those that can survive their habitat become stronger and resilient as evidenced by the success of their offspring. One generation at a time. Where each generation looks essentially the same but are different in some way. Giving them a better chance to survive well into the future.
Incrementally making things better is what life is all about. Starting with little and building on what we have daily. Where teaching us to iterate can be a valuable skill to learn as it is at the core of what each of us try to do regularly. Especially, when we first become aware of its importance.