Product Development: A Journey Not a Destination

I remember when the first iPhone 2G came out. It was beautiful, it was something completely new. But, do you remember that the iPhone 2G had a horrible rear camera (2.0MP) and it didn’t even have a front facing camera (no selfies). It didn’t allow for third party apps; the app store didn’t even exist. It didn’t have 3G internet, it was super slow. 

Also, it quickly became the hottest phone of its kind and revolutionized cell phones as we now know them. It also positioned Apple as the leader in smartphones almost overnight.

Apple understood that this was the first generation iPhone, it would continue to iterate and improve on the model again and again. Comparing the iPhone 2G to the iPhone 11 Pro is like comparing night and day. Most of us have short memories and forget there has been over a decade that has passed between those two models and billions of dollars spent in R&D.

Apple makes an easy case for looking at product development, they knew that their first model wasn’t going to be their best, it was just that, their first. The start of a journey that they didn’t know where it would lead them. The start of an entirely new type of phone.

Photo credit: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/iphone-evolution-timeline-chart

Photo credit: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/iphone-evolution-timeline-chart

 When most of us have an idea for a product or a vision of what we want to create we often believe that we need to start with the perfect product. The reality of this is that rarely, if ever, is a product perfect on its first iteration. There is only so much you can know about how your product will work in the wild and how and what options are actually valuable to your target demographic.

 There is point of diminishing returns when it comes to product design. I’ve seen that many of my clients that are working on their first product development cycle can get caught up in analysis paralysis. Fear of making a “wrong” decision can create inaction.  

 This is where the concept that product development is a journey not a destination is an important and critical understanding.

A journey, not a destination

The journey teaches you things you can never know before you commit. The process of learning the constraints of manufacturing, raw materials, logistics, sizing, wear and tear, features and benefits and all the tradeoffs that come with making physical products can only be learned through starting. By taking that first step.

Waiting for the perfect product will lead to…waiting. Rarely will stressing over the most minute detail lead to anything more than that, stress. Perfection will most likely never arrive. Hold to your vision, hold to your idea for the product and evolve with your product. Learn by starting the journey.

You will receive the most valuable feedback once you set your product free into the open market. The feedback, both good and bad, will help you grow and understand what to do next.

The most vulnerable part of product development is when that feedback starts to come in. It’s the core reason why we get stuck in analysis paralysis. It’s the subconscious fear that blocks so many of us from chasing our dreams. The fear of “them”, the consumer, whomever you seek validation from. The unknown can be dark and scary, it can be paralyzing.

Reframing product development as a journey, not a destination allows you space and understanding that the first product you release is version 1.0. You have many more versions to work on. Focus on the core components of the product. Build a quality product, not a perfect product. Refinement will come over time. Looking back is only possible after you start the journey.

So, start, start somewhere, with the best information you have, with a focus on creating something you can be proud of.

John Brown