A huge part of being a product developer is the repetitive process. You start by looking at the field – what is out there, how does it work, what can you do differently that will make it (whatever ‘it’ may be) better. From there you set parameters for where you want to go, you narrow the definition of what you will do, and then start coming up with concepts until one of them nails it (at least theoretically). This is the preamble.
Once you get through that portion of the process you begin iterations – the process of building, looking, testing, disecting, and revising. Revisions are where you look at what worked and didn’t work, and sort out a different, better way to do things. You can have a few large changes, or a myriad number of small ones (hopefully there aren’t a ton of big changes, because that means you really missed the mark – but it does happen from time to time).
Typically it takes 3 to 5 iterations to end up with a product that I’m happy with, but some times it’s taken as many as 8 or even 10. Revisions are a constant process for a product developer – even after a product goes to market you are looking at ways to improve it for future generations.
What makes revisions effective is that you take the time to be analytical, you work through the successes and failures, and then you write down how to improve the next attempt.
This applies to projects in the mountains as well. People who are successful tend to also be meticulous. They have their gear checklists, their written plans of where they are going and when they expect to be there, how many calories they plan to expend each day and how they will replace them, contingency plans for if things go wrong and the materials they need to make those contingency plans work. Everyone makes mental notes that they try to remember for next time – the really successful people make lists and revise them; take notes and then revise them; they write it down so that they are accountable to their history and so is everyone else that they are out in the backcountry with.
Where this process gets really interesting is when you are able to look at life this way.
So many people set a plan and move relentlessly forward in the direction that they had long ago defined. They don’t look up and around to see where they’ve gotten, they don’t take a step back and figure out what is really working and what is not, they don’t give themselves the time and space to make revisions.
If anyone has been guilty of that, I certainly have to count myself among them. Even though my work and my pursuits in the mountains demand that I apply that process rigorously in other areas; I, quite often, just put my head down and press forward in life without taking a moment to figure out whether what I am doing is really working for me or not.
Fortunately, I am not completely thick-headed and have been able to step back, course correct, and revise on a number of occasions. I’ve done it to sell my company, I’ve done it to change industries in my career, I’ve done it to redirect my pursuits in the outdoors, I’ve done it with my family. But, it seems that every time I get around to making a clear revision it’s coming late, at a point where I am well past the subtle clues and the world is screaming at me through a bull-horn to pull my head out and make a change.
How much better would life be if I had the discipline to do it more often – after every significant event, or even simply on a monthly basis – making specific changes that can be written out so that I can see how they are working. How would that improve my clarity around work, how much extra time would that free up for the projects that I’d like to do in the mountains, how much more peaceful and fulfilling would my life be as a whole?
Now seems like as good a time as any to find out…