Constraints can actually speed development. For instance, we often can get a sense of just how good a new concept is if we only prototype for a single day or week. Or we’ll keep team size to three people or fewer. By limiting how long we work on something or how many people work on it, we limit our investment. In the case of the Toolbar beta, several key features (custom buttons, shared bookmarks) were tried out in under a week. In fact, during the brainstorming phase, we came up with about five times as many “key features.” Most were discarded after a week of prototyping. Since only 1 in every 5 to 10 ideas works out, the strategy of limiting the time we have to prove that an idea works allows us to try out more ideas, increasing our odds of success.
Speed also lets you fail faster. Have you ever wondered how a product so lame got to market, a movie so bad got released, or a government policy so misguided got passed? In cases like these, it’s likely that the people working on the project invested so much time that it was too painful to walk away. They often know that the endeavor is misguided, yet they work till the painful, unsuccessful end. That’s why it’s important to discover failure fast and abandon it quickly. A limited investment makes it easier to move on to something else that has a better chance of success.
Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.
– From Marissa Ann Mayer – current president and CEO of Yahoo!, a position she has held since July 2012. Previously, she was a long-time executive, usability leader, and key spokesperson for Google.