One of the most powerful side effects of the Internet has been the focus on iteration. In the past the norm was to release a product, the consumer would use it, and maybe a gen two product would be released at a later date. Rapid iteration and consumer interaction with developers was unheard of. Products were developed in a linear waterfall method with formal stage gates. Products needed to be close to perfect prior to launch in order to have a chance at success.
Fast forward to present day. There are virtually zero gates to launching a product. Technical information is available all over the Internet to gain the know-how to implement your idea. An inspired entrepreneur can generally start for zero cost through freemium services. A product launch can, and often does, start with a blog. A product is now expected to be launched early and will likely be far from perfect. Successful entrepreneurs including LinkedIn Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, Reid Hoffman state the idea that if you are not embarrassed by your first product launch you have waited too long to launch. In hindsight successful product launches are always embarrassing compared to the present generation of said product.
As opposed to legacy waterfall methods, rapid product development is now accomplished via a spiral, iterative process emphasizing feedback loops. Build, test, repeat. Over and over and over again with each iteration being an incremental improvement over the last. Many small steps lead to large improvements and progress.
One of the most exciting aspects of iteration, and this is specific to early stage entrepreneurial spirited ventures, is the amount of influence that users have on products. If you’re an early user of products you will likely have a direct line to the CEO and/or other co-founders. They value your feedback as you are the first unbiased user(s) of their product. The feedback may not be able to be implemented right away due to cost and/or schedule constraints, but your feedback will be considered and you are likely to receive a response from the co-founders and/or those who develop the product. This sort of access and influence is a major advantage of startups when compared to larger companies who cannot offer this level of service.
Of course we are now learning that iteration and feedback loops need not be limited to product development. They are now being implemented in reducing driver speed, improving fitness and education, among others. Expect this trend to continue over time as the Internet spreads and products and knowledge improve with each successive iteration.
1. Business Insider – The 10 Rules of “Building Massive Companies” From Linked Founder Reid Hoffman: http://www.businessinsider.com/reid-hoffman-entrepreneurship-2011-3
2. Wired – Harnessing The Power of Feedback Loops: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/06/ff_feedbackloop/