P005: The New Hotness vs The Hot Newness

While there’s probably more than two ways to advance your art/craft/business/industry, the most frequently discussed methods by far are innovation and iteration. Seduced by near-rhyme and the always-awesome affectation of alliteration, creative thinkers are typically content to describe progress in their field in terms of either:

  • radical leaps and bounds, or
  • constant, steady, predictable evolution.

Companies like Apple and Intel and Porsche have found great success by putting their products through alternating cycles of innovation and iteration, realizing that each breakthrough can be refined with time and dedication. This “tick/tock” development cycle is a pragmatic’s dream in that it gives an organization permission to manage costs and deliver a consistently high-quality product (tick) while periodically throwing caution to the wind with risky creative breakthroughs (tock). Of course, the success or failure of any product revision is affected greatly by the press that covers it, and the only thing that the press is interested in is disruption.

Hulk Disrupt

I’m not mad, I’m disappointed

Kevin Nguyen dropped an excellent review-slash-societal-critique over at the Bygone Bureau that was ostensibly about two new writing tools, Writer Pro and Hemingway, that have recently received a bit of backlash from the ol’ Internet. At the end of the day, these products are what they are, but surely the sheer volume of vitriol stems from the fact that they are not what they promised. Writer Pro announced itself with a truly beautiful video that completely oversold the innovation and utility of its tentpole feature, Syntax Control(TM), while Hemingway name-squats on America’s greatest author. These apps disappointed reviewers because they promised innovation – disruption, even – and that disappointment is going to make a meaningful iteration period much more difficult.

Under-promise, deliver

If the work you are doing is truly innovative, you don’t need to tell the world how good you are, the world will know and they will speak on your behalf. If the work you are doing is iterative, it is up to you to keep your audience from wanting The Next Big Thing when really what you are making is The Next Better Thing. Setting proper expectations is the only way you will have the room you need to do your best work.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron