by Mike Farag, Fervor Founder + CEO
If you’ve been around the startup community for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this magic word: pivot. The concept of pivoting has been elevated and romanticized, something every great company has to do to thrive. But pivoting without a strategy is risky, even dangerous. What’s more powerful, more sustainable and more impactful is iteration. There’s a big difference between pivoting and iteration. Here’s our take.
Iteration is intentional improvement and innovation on purpose, relatively slowly over time, but constantly. Iteration is pushing boundaries — while still staying true to your organization’s core. It’s a delicate balance between gaining traction and staying true to your identity. Pivoting is changing drastically. It’s a substantive change to a core facet of who you are.
An organization that stands still will rarely succeed. Imagine what would have happened if Henry Ford had simply said, “I’ve got this thing down to a science,” and stopped iterating. What if he’d stopped at the black Model T and been satisfied with his first iteration of the assembly line, his one model, his one color? We may still be driving identical 1908-style cars, in black.
Iteration takes courage. If we’re going to iterate, we can’t be afraid to break what might need breaking, adjust what might need adjusting, change what might need changing. No sacred cows. To make intentional iteration part of your organization, you need time, a receptive mindset and an attitude of commitment.
Organizations can only iterate successfully when they set aside the time to do it. Smart brands see iteration time as a worthwhile investment, and they’ll slow down long enough to evaluate their own processes and challenge their way of thinking. At Fervor, we regularly allot time after every Brand Impact Assessment™ to reflect, plan and iterate to make things better for the next time. We’re 57 iterations in, and our clients are benefitting because of the intentional time we’ve spent over nine years . . . iterating.
Iteration is successful when everyone on the team has a receptive mindset. Your crew needs a shared understanding and shared expectation that things are never going to be “done.” It’s expected that we make things better, every time. You can’t be satisfied with “good enough. Or, as our friend Seth Godin says about incremental improvement, “Better make it better than it needs to be.” Iteration takes continued commitment, both in the moment and in a way that’s structured. At Fervor, we commit to both annual and quarterly reviews of how we’re doing.
Let me be clear: iteration without overarching strategy, and without patience, can be downright dangerous. Many organizations have idealized constant, rapid change. Without a defined goal, iteration distracts from real progress. And a hunger for unsustainable growth sets you up to be a flash in the pan. One day you’re in the headlines and the next, you’re closing up shop. Companies that last are committed to iteration in the pursuit of excellence, not simply in pursuit of profit.
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