Linear versus Iteration, or the battle between output velocity and value creation velocity. Are you features-driven or value-driven? Is your life a project or a product?

Photo by Conor Samuel on Unsplash

When I was a kid, I always wanted to learn the magic of flying. Not only that, I wanted to know the machinery behind the magic.

So I joined Airbus to try to get an overview of the whole process.

And I was pretty surprised when I got behind the scenes.

The process to build aircraft today, be it at Airbus, Boeing, or any other aircraft manufacturer, is not different from how many of us live our lives.

We can summarize the required steps with one hand.

I let it sink in.

A. The linear prison of our “To-Do Lists”

We all have been there, at work or at home.

We buy a board and strike 3 columns: “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done”.

We take some post-its, the yellow ones preferably, and we start doing.

When building aircraft, we have more post-its. Yet the workflow is quite similar to a “To-Do Lists”.

Here are the 5 linear steps when building an aircraft:

  1. Feasibility
  2. Concept
  3. Design
  4. Integration and qualification
  5. Entry Into Service
Fig: The linear approach of life as a project.
Fig: The linear approach of life as a project.

As you can see, quite a linear process.

Let’s do a deep dive in each step.

1. FEASIBILITY — Let’s imagine the possibility of doing it.

2. CONCEPT — Let’s study the possibility of doing it.

3. DESIGN — Let’s draw the possibility of doing it.

4. INTEGRATION AND QUALIFICATION — Shit, let’s build something.

5. ENTRY INTO SERVICE — Here is your product. Please don’t call us.

And we all have the same things in our lives with our linear lists:

Fig: The linear To Do list.
Fig: The linear To Do list.

We love tocking boxes for instant gratifications.

We see our lives as a project to be managed. We don’t “have time” to sit down and reflect.

So each day, we grab our list, and we tick.

We want to have a list of features. The more we have, the more successful we think we are.

B. The circular universe of “To Try Lists”

Before talking about this approach, let me share with you a story.

The story of a jar, big rocks, pebbles, sand, and water.

Imagine that your life is represented by an empty jar.

In front of you are five boxes containing the following items:

  • Box 01: Sand
  • Box 02: Pebbles
  • Box 03: Water
  • Box 04: Big rocks

And you are asked to fill the jar in the order you want by picking whatever quantity of each of the four boxes in whichever order you want.

There is only one caveat: you are blindfolded, and whichever box you pick, you have to pour it into the jar.

You can rearrange the boxes in the order you want.

This is us when having a linear approach in life.

We just put our blinkers on. We randomly pick things and hope that we will not pick the water box first in the previous experiment.

Now let’s add a new character to the previous experience.

We have an assistant. He is blindfolded like us. But he has the power to open the box we pick.

He can put his hands inside and tell us what is in the box.

This is the feedback loop we need. This is what an iterative process looks like.

We can wait until we know what is in each box, and we can arrange the boxes in the optimal order to fill the jar of our life.

The short answer is yes.

Let’s find out how below.

Here are the 5 iterations when building the best product in life:

  1. Concept
  2. Architecture
  3. Design
  4. Production
  5. In-Service Feedback
Fig: The circular approach of life as a product.
Fig: The circular approach of life as a product.

1. CONCEPT — We define the size of our jar.

2. ARCHITECTURE — We first put the big rocks in the jar.

3. DESIGN — Then we put the pebbles.

4. PRODUCTION — Now is the time to add in the sand.

5. IN SERVICE FEEDBACK — Now, let’s pour in the water or any other liquid required by the customer.

This is the optimum way to fill the jar of life, given the ingredients in each box.

In this circular approach, there are still five steps. But there is a hidden 6th step: the iteration process at the heart of the product.

Each step is permeable to the previous step and to the final product.

We have moved from a linear project to a circular product.

And in this approach, we have at heart to add value to the product.

The key to the iteration process is a paradigm shift.

We move from a “To-Do List” towards a “To Try List.”

Fig: The circular To Try List.
Fig: The circular To Try List.

In this approach, we will iterate more. We will learn more because we will fail more.

This approach is the growth mindset in contrast with the linear fixed mindset approach.

Here we are driven by value creation at each step because we have the product at heart.

There you have the secret to bringing a product that will satisfy your customer.

Put the product (and the customer) at the center of each iteration.

Make sure that you add value at each step, and let the compound effect do the rest.

Are you ready to give it a try?

How are you approaching your life?

How do you integrate the feedback loop?

Are you ready to move from a “to do list” to a “to try list”?

Leave a comment below.

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Ahmadou Diallo ✪

🤎 Afropean 📖 Griot 🧙🏿‍♂️Mentor 💪🏿 Entrepreneur