Product Development: Why Sometimes Slow And Steady Really Does Win The Race

Conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley (and pretty much everywhere else) often breeds a “time is money” mentality. Developers move quickly, bringing products to market as early as possible, even if they aren’t fully ready for public consumption. Even Facebook, a global technology leader, adhered to its signature “move fast and break things” mantra, prematurely launching features and functions until the company grew and realized that having a solid infrastructure in place was just as important as its ceaseless loop of moving and breaking.

Why the rush? Tech world rationale has long held that if a company isn’t first to market with, well, anything, a rival company will beat them to it, inevitably blowing the competition out of the water. Case in point: a common digital product development method is a “sprint”, invented by Google Ventures, in which a product or feature goes from concept to prototype in just 5 days. Impressive, yes…when the functionality actually performs as intended. However, this incessant race to the technology finish line is often rife with miscalculations, missteps, and good old-fashioned mistakes that could have been easily avoided if programmers had even a slightly longer development cycle.

The Big-Picture Benefits Of Slowing Down Development Cycles

While speed, competitiveness, and agility are certainly beneficial at times, the unrelenting, breakneck pace of many tech companies can sometimes prove harmful to both businesses and consumers alike. Not to get all tortoise and hare here, but, there are several reasons why slowing down may not only be necessary, but might also lead to better products:

Moving Fast is a Luxury Many Teams Don’t Have

Building an innovative digital product quickly generally requires three crucial ingredients (in no particular order):

  • Money
  • Access to talented programmers
  • Full-time focus

The problem with this must-have checklist is that many entrepreneurs and product development leaders simply don’t have access to these resources in the earliest phases of designing a new product. Sure, your company may have hit the development jackpot with a full-time team of in-house programmers (or, better yet, have a founder who is actually a programmer herself). However, outsourcing technical talent on every initiative can quickly prove expensive and time-consuming. As a result, even the most brilliant entrepreneurs must often continue working in a traditional job while simultaneously attempting to secure the capital needed to get their product and business off the ground. Likewise, established companies are often forced to stretch existing resources (aka staff and finances) thin by supporting both core businesses and new product concepts. In short, without the necessary time, money and talent, speed to market is just not possible.

Slowing Down May Lead to Better Results

Many of us see procrastination as an obstacle to both productivity and creativity. However, recent studies reveal that delaying efforts may have significant value in the development process. Wharton professor, Adam Grant, published research that highlighted the benefits of procrastination for boosting creativity and original thinking. Grant’s research illustrated that many of the individuals with the best study results were those who delayed their work to some degree before returning to the assigned task and conceptualizing their most innovative ideas. By allowing their ideas to incubate before rushing to finish an objective, study participants were able to present a more thoughtful and inspired final output.

Of course, indefinite deterrents aren’t a viable solution in this scenario. According to Grant, his procrastination premise only works if the delay isn’t too long and is done with the explicit intent of coming back to the project at a specified time. The first ideas or concepts are not usually the best iteration, so giving people critical bandwidth to refine and sharpen an approach can ensure the team doesn’t waste precious time or resources on the weakest version of the idea.

Timing Is Everything

Many experts have long touted timing as one of the most essential ingredients to new product success. If a product deploys too early, it runs the risk of joining a marketplace not quite ready for what it has to offer. Conversely, missing the initial window of opportunity often means getting lost amongst the veritable flood of competitors who launched a similar item first. However, there is that timing sweet spot where technology catches up to concept, resources are securely in place, and demand is created. Suddenly…bam! A perfect development storm occurs where companies and entrepreneurs can focus their energies, insight, and attention on ensuring their finished product precisely aligns with what customers want and need at that very moment. Isn’t that worth waiting for?

Of course, none of this is to say that founders, companies, innovators, and dreamers shouldn’t continuously make progress in developing their idea or new product. But, launching premature technology just to be first is no longer enough. Developers should act thoughtfully, intentionally, and strategically to leverage their resources and bring the very best new products to market rather than moving quickly only for the sake of speed.

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