The problem of the local maxima
Sometimes building a solution in the right way is not enough. We also need to consider if we’re building the right one. This is a mistake I see brilliant teams making every day. They might be aware of their customer needs, know to test and iterate frequently and know to prioritise making data informed decisions. They might build outstanding user experiences and yet, fail to deliver the most impactful solution.
When we decide to climb a hill without considering the neighbours, we risk spending time and energy building and iterating on low altitude. That’s the problem of the local maxima: When the peak of the hill we choose is way lower than the global maximum. — The impact of our solution is as great as the height of the hill.
How to avoid this mistake?
- Write down what is the main outcome you’re trying to achieve before thinking about ideas for any given challenge.
- Make coming up with at least 3 different ideas a requirement for how your team operates. These shouldn’t be iterations but divergent.
- Don’t commit to one direction right away. Think about how to measure the outcome of a given improvement without actually implementing it. Build many prototypes that enable your team to test and compare their merit.
- Group the ideas and the learnings derived from testing them in one place so it’s easier to compare and talk about them before proceeding.