One of the intensely appealing things about the current app economy is the sense we get of kaizen from the aps we’re downloading – constant, consistent improvement in their features and value propositions.
If we opt in early, we get to see the growth, the longer we use an application. If we opt in late, we get to see a mature version of the thing we’ve heard so much about – often at the same price, as the early adopters finance the enjoyment of the majority.
Strong revisioning practice powers this in software; the idea of taking a feature set basic enough to get a job done, calling that 1.0, and working up toward your dream. Every process in between initial betas and 2.0, or even 3.0 and 10.0 is powered by a simple, 3-4 step iteration process:
- Describe the function
- Apply it to the existing features
- Gather response from users
- Describe new functions
In this way, application developers can call every choice they make the right choice. Even if a feature fails, or is unpopular, under this model, it counts as an experiment rather than an accomplishment; and experiments only fail if you learn nothing from the doing of them.
What I always wonder is why we haven’t applied this theorem to our lives yet in a conscious way?
I’ve spent the past month working toward getting back in shape. I’ve busted my knee twice, damaged my shoulders by pushing too hard on a workout, and been out of commission with delayed onset muscle pain for nearly a week. I’ve dug out my weights, started eating somewhat differently, and modified my sleep schedule to accommodate for the occasional first-thing-in-the-morning run. It’s been difficult, and injury is not my favorite thing in the world.
But I’m continuing to work at it – why? Because I believe in kaizen as a personal ideal as well as a working ideal.
It’s an iteration process. Every time I make a change, run a little faster, or work a little harder, I mark the results and adjust my course. I make optimization moves – not just to my own process, such as finding the highest-energy points in the day at which to work out, but also finding better routes walking to the office (and shaving 10 extraneous minutes off the trip in the process).
Why is this a big deal?
Because it’s an awareness trap. By not paying attention to when I hit the milestone – when Ian 2.0, or 3.0 appears – I’m making the work of getting each maintenance release out far more easy.
We consider so many things by their end results; weight loss goals, study for degrees, getting that black belt, learning Esperanto, and so on. These goals are ambitious for a reason – they make us want to exercise our need to accomplish, to build ambition toward a goal. However, I’d argue that as we divide our attention more, we’re losing the ability to maintain the salience of these large goals in the face of all the many small steps it takes to achieve them.
What would happen if, instead of broad goals, we began to make the work of improving – the process of kaizen – a central part of our personal planning?