Feedback, Iteration and Just Doing It

One of the reasons that startups are often able to innovate in ways that larger companies can’t, is because they can cut a smaller feedback loop. Large companies often take too long from noticing a problem to fixing it.  And part of the problem is that when five people are using your software and they notice a bug, you just fix it.  But when the latest version is used by millions of people, it’s more complicated. Which missing features matter most? Which bugs? And what new problems will come from the bug fix? The biggest problem, though, is that giants move slowly.

The key to improvement in anything–sports, public speaking–is feedback. Feedback is even more important than knowing HOW to improve. Why? Because if you know how to improve but have no feedback, you’ll never know how close you’re getting. But with good feedback, you can simply try things at random until you start seeing an improvement.

That’s basically the biggest advantage a new company has, which is why great entrepreneurs always seem to be trying something new. A large supermarket takes time to collect data on how customers react to a reorganization of the aisles, but the owner of a grocery store can just watch the customers coming in. Where do they look? What do they pick up? What do they buy? And who buys what?

Since small businesses can iterate so much more quickly, it makes sense to spend more time just doing it than thinking about it. Your mistakes just don’t cost as much as they would cost the big boys. And chances are that if you’re small, you’re probably able to maintain a better relationship with your customers, who are likely to forgive your mistake today because they can see it will be fixed tomorrow.

So just do it, get feedback, make changes, and do it again: iteration.

(Inspired by this post about iteration and software development.