Going Round in Circles… or Iterating?

Listening to F1 technical pundit Gary Anderson on a 2014 panel (via Joe Saward) about lessons from F1 for business, I was struck by his comment that “motor racing is about going round in circles..racing drivers go round in circles all day long”, trying to improve lap on lap:

Each time round is another chance to improve, not just for the driver but for the teams, particularly during practice sessions, where real time telemetry allows the team to offer suggested changes as the car is on track, and pit stop allow physical (and computational?) changes to be made to the car.

Each lap is another iteration. Each stint is another iteration. Each session is another iteration. (If you only get 20 laps in a session, that could still give you fifty useful iterations, fifty chances to change something to see if it makes a useful difference.) Each race weekend is another iteration. Each season is another iteration.

Each iteration gives you a chance to try something new and compare it with what you’ve done before.

Who else iterates? Google does. Google (apparently) runs experiments all the time. Potentially, every page impression is another iteration to test the efficacy of their search engine results in terms of convert searchers to revenue generating clickers.

But the thing about iteration is that changes might have negative effects too, which is one reason why you need to iterate fast and often.

But business processes often appear to act as a brake on such opportunities.

Which is why I’ve learned to be very careful writing anything down… because organisations that have had time to build up an administration and a bureaucracy seem tempted to treat things that are written down as somehow fixed (even if those things are written down in socially editable documents (woe betide anyone who changes what you added to the document…)); things that are written down become STOPs in the iteration process. Things that are written down become cast in stone… become things that force you to go round in circles, rather than iterating…