It’s no secret that remarkable success rarely comes without failures, demonstrated by a finding that 70% of new products fail to meet market demands. Most organizations distinguish innovation as the desired destination, yet the stops (and detours) along the way often illuminate the best creativity, clarity and information.  As part of our 3 I’s of Innovation blog series that also includes “invent” and “interrupt,” we recently defined “iteration” as creating a new version of an invention.  An interesting post by Harvard Business Review demystifies some of the greatest innovations (and innovators) of our time by pointing out that their real success was tied to iterations of the invention because the original invention wouldn’t have met the market needs enough to survive. In fact, the inventions we regard as the most successful household name inventions may just be that – iterations.

The obvious examples refer to some of the most important tools available to us; before Google iterated to AdWords and AdSense, it fell into typical search engine territory. Mere months before the initial launch of the iPhone, Apple’s design team iterated the product significantly because of user flaws and the renowned Dyson vacuum cleaner had 5,000 prototypes before going to market.

Fail Fast, Succeed Faster

For many start-ups, the confluence of iterative product development and sound execution leads to success—not the initial idea. – Forbes

We noted in our last 3 I’s post that it’s pretty hard to invent something completely new in today’s world.  Perhaps the real mark on innovation is made by those willing to fail fast, iterate experimentally and execute effectively. The key is to identify and solve new problems with new versions of successful inventions. Amazon is thought of as one of the great innovations of our time but because its leader allowed the company adopt an experimental approach to expansion, the rise of Amazon was more tied to iteration than innovation. Airbnb had plenty of predecessors, yet it rose in an age of social networking, opening a new and desired method of communication and lessened the research load for users. Embracing a “trial and error” philosophy can open an organization to new levels of success, if they know how to execute on the iteration that works.

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