There is a noticeable trend these days about the need to make innovation more rapid. This is frequently framed around the value of running rapid, simple tests and experiments. This is based on a sound principle: the faster you iterate, the more you learn and the more you learn the more you reduce risk and uncertainty.
But it’s not actually about how fast you go. It’s more about getting to your destination as fast as you can. If you travel rapidly in the wrong direction you will spend more time overall getting to the right destination. In fact, you run the risk that you may never get to the right destination at all.
If you don’t set up your fast tests and experiments correctly, you can set yourself up for taking longer overall. This is where experience and expertise comes in. It’s not just about running tests; it’s about knowing about which tests to run in the right way to give you reliable results.
I can’t disagree with the leaders of the Lean Startup movement when they say “The faster you iterate, the more you learn and the faster you succeed” But you need to be really careful you don’t end up with lots of False Negatives and False Positives in your tests.
A False Positive is when your test results suggest that things look more promising than they actually are. This is seeing things that aren’t there. This can occur because you may not have set up the right experiments, or you’ve run the right experiment in the wrong way. There’s data but it’s not reliable data.
A False Negative is when your test results suggest that things look less promising than they actually should be. This is not seeing things that are there. This can occur because you may not have set up the right experiments, or again because you’ve run the right experiments in the wrong way. There’s no data, but there would be if you knew how to run experiments properly.
My point is is that although you need to move fast you also need to know how to get things right. You need to be fast but still reliable. If you travel in the right direction to your destination at a steady pace, you’ll get there much more rapidly than someone who travels at a fast pace in the wrong direction. They may correct themselves and still get to the right destination, but, chances are, they’ll never get there because they’ll give up.