Why Fearless Iteration Sets Innovative Companies Apart
By Amit Maimon
To the average entrepreneur, a failure of this scale would be utterly demoralizing and likely lead him or her to pursue a different product offering. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, however, saw the Fire Phone’s flop as a sign that his company was on the right track.
Now, just a few short years later, Amazon has boldly re-entered the smartphone market — this time incorporating its popular Alexa technology into a high-performance smartphone made by Huawei.
Though the verdict is still out regarding how this product will fare in the ultracompetitive smartphone market, Amazon is boldly following a product development methodology I feel every modern company should follow: fearless iteration.
True Innovation Requires Fearless Iteration
By definition, an “innovative” product or solution provides users with radically new benefits. Given this reality, your best bet is to put several irons into the fire and try many things at once. From there, you need to know when to continue investing in and iterating upon the ones that work — and when to “kill” the ones that aren’t working and learn from them.
Consumer game companies embody this approach. Candy Crush, for example, took the world by storm and singlehandedly led to the $6 billion acquisition of King Digital Entertainment, the company that created it. Not everyone realizes, however, that King developed and released hundreds of other online games before striking gold with this one. Over the years, it fearlessly released products, tracked its results, killed the games that didn’t stick and eventually created an innovative game the world desperately craved.
Embracing Fearless Iteration
No entrepreneur wants to fail many times before striking gold — but that’s what staying ahead in the innovation game requires. You survive this approach by killing your bad bets quickly and doubling down on the ones that show promise. To instill in your business a culture of fearless iteration, start here:
1. Place many appropriately sized bets
Allow the sizes of your company and your budget to dictate just how many simultaneous projects — or bets — your team works on. Ideally, depending on your capacity, you will always have several ongoing bets that allow you to gather knowledge faster.
Large companies such as Google are known for placing hundreds of bets every year. For every big announcement Google makes about new product lines, it shelves a similar number of failed endeavors. However, with so many bets in progress, the company can afford to fail because the insights it gains can strengthen its future iterations and ultimately lead to big successes.