The Power of Iteration and Flow

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To paraphrase several instructors I’ve had over the years ‘its better to have a good plan NOW than a perfect plan TOO LATE.’

As sound as this advice is for military leaders - its also true for content creators and designers. Content delivered quickly that is short, timely and relevant is far better than overlong, overlarded content that gets ignored.

You’ll find that the secret to deliver great content quickly relies on harnessing inspiration, working with flow, and ultimately, iterating quickly on your work until its ‘great.’

Here’s what I mean.

Inspiration…

The first step of course is to find and encourage these great ideas. Whether you develop content or user interfaces, that bolt of lightning moment when inspiration hits is the EXACT time you need to capture that idea or juicy phrase, or sketch that design to explore. Smothering inspiration now for the ‘perfect time’ later is a tragedy.

Of course, you can’t only hope for inspiration, you need to get in the habit of generating it. With practice you and your team can help ‘manufacture’ good ideas and design in structured sessions without having to wait for that ‘lightning’ moment. By getting in the habit of capturing inspiration wherever it finds you, and learning how to generate it with your team, inspiration, the raw material of great content and design, will find you far more often.

…and Flow

Flow - that highly productive state where you lose track of time - is harder to manufacture. So when you find yourself ‘in the zone’ or your team is clicking in a great brainstorming session - don’t stop - keep going! You can often coax out another great idea or concept, or have another leap of inspiration and it would be shame to artificially close it off.

Taken together, getting in the habit of harnessing inspiration and recognizing and working with flow will consistently generate powerful ideas and dramatically more content and designs.

But this is only half of the process - refining that raw material you’ve generated into something great requires intelligent iteration.

The ‘Lower’ the Tech - The Better

The key to iterating quickly in this first stages of content and design may surprise you - and that is to use purposefully low tech tools that are simple and clear.

For marketing content or copy this means plain text, a simple outlining tool or Markdown formatting.

For web or interface design, this means whiteboard sketches or wireframes. As long as there is little penalty to erase and start over, and rapidly work through multiple designs and drafts to find the best one, you stay highly productive and won’t waste effort or time.

Compare this to the alternative - laborious word processor copy with just-so fonts and formatting, or a Photoshop rendered design way too early in the design process. By using low-tech tools early in the process you are using time efficiently, and its harder to feel too attached to something that ultimately doesn’t work.

So banish your 80’s word processor version control and clumsy PDF review tools for something blissfully simple that encourages iteration without heavyweight process. Your content creators will thank you, believe me, and your content production and quality will skyrocket.

Deliver Fast

So once your great idea is built out, the clock is ticking to PUBLISH IT - get it in front of your viewers or customers! The key is to keep this process moving quickly with a short review and publish cycle.

Whatever this means for your organization - get a polish pass, another pair of fresh eyes to catch obvious errors and spelling mistakes, then get it published and keep moving.

So if you work on content, build websites or user interfaces:

  1. Harness inspiration when it strikes - work quickly and efficiently to capture more great ideas

  2. Once you are ‘in the zone’ - stay with that flow as long as its productive

  3. Use low-tech tools to rapidly iterate through drafts and design approaches quickly to find the best one worth spending the time to build out

  4. Iterate and polish with a short review chain

  5. Publish quickly and get on the next!

Product Marketing, Branding and Strategy, Code and Content