Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
from the Manifesto for Agile Software Development
Seth Godin talks in his new book, Poke the Box, about how some people deal with their fear of failure by spending their time dreaming big. And he’s right—it is a lot easier to come up with 50 great ideas than it is to implement one. You can read an excerpt from the book over at Fast Company’s expert blog.
I have this problem myself—the allure of being an Idea Person is a lot sexier than the reality of being the Grunt Work Person. I can spend hours/weeks/months brainstorming, researching and putting notes on paper before I ever really get started. But turning ideas into reality is what makes the big bucks, and it doesn’t come easily.
The solution? There’s a concept in software development called iterative development. You’re probably familiar with the traditional “waterfall” method of completing projects: you make a detailed plan and then complete the plan in phases, finishing one before starting the next. The down side to that method is that there’s no payoff until everything is completed and, consequently, a big risk. These days things change quickly and there’s no guarantee that your initial plans and assumptions will still be valid after months or years of implementation.
Iterative development, on the other hand, means getting a rough, bare-bones version of your software (or product, or service) out to the public as soon as possible. Then, you can use any feedback or lessons you learn from your initial offering to implement a round of changes. Once that version is released to the public, you start again ad infinitum. With iterative development you can learn and backtrack and adapt to changes in the market as you go along. You can measure the results of each round of development as you go, which provides ongoing motivation to keep enhancing your product or service.
The lesson for those of us who aren’t software developers is this: JUST GET SOMETHING OUT THERE. It doesn’t have to be great. Get over the hump of implementing your new idea now, and the motivation to refine and improve it will be there. Get a half-baked idea out into the world and invite your customers to tell you what they think. Customers can’t always articulate what it is that they need, but are great at telling you pros and cons of something concrete that they can see.
So if you want to add a new service but are stalling because you need a clever name and new brochure, don’t. Just start telling your customers, and let the rest come later. If you’ve been putting off getting an online presence, set up a Facebook page and ask your customers what they want to see on your upcoming website.
Have you implemented a half-baked idea that you later refined into gold? Tell us about it in the comments.