The Importance of Iterative Innovation

James Dyson created more than 5,000 failed prototypes before succeeding in completing the vacuum cleaner that made his name and helped build his disruptive company.

The Wright brothers didn’t invent the airplane, they perfected aerodynamic control over time so that the pilot could manipulate the plane’s surfaces to maintain flight.

It is iteration that creates successful innovation and not the initial idea itself.

In the high stakes world of packaged goods where 75%* of innovation fails, getting it right is everything. The costs and risks of losing a good idea because it’s not quite right are huge. Many ideas have failed because of issues that could have been picked up before final testing or going to market but haste and hubris that the idea is great overtake common sense.

At Butterfly, we have made iteration a cornerstone of our innovation process.  We believe that brilliant ideas become even stronger if you look to improve and develop them as much as possible before final testing and launch.
We call it Test, Learn, Evolve. We build the idea, test it and then evolve it to make it stronger.

This can take many forms and we have different tools and methodologies to do this.

Who we do it with.

  • We advocate the use of experts in different disciplines to hone and shape the idea into something more powerful than it was before.
  • Before moving into expensive quantitative testing we believe that consumers should have the opportunity to see and have a voice on the idea.
  • Within organisations there are networks of people with years of experience. We open it up to internal and external networks to critique and build the ideas.

How we do it.

  • Creating online communities of experts with our Huddle tool
  • Co creating with consumers via Tandem workshops
  • Face to face Enabler sessions with key stakeholders within organisations.

At the end of each “test” we evolve the idea taking the consolidated feedback we capture, improving the ideas and ensuring that while it evolves it doesn’t transform into something unrecognisable from the original and stays true to the brands objectives and essence.

By doing so, we believe we give great ideas a much better chance of succeeding in an increasingly competitive marketplace where an ever more demanding consumer decides if your innovation lives or dies.


Brian Hackett , Associate Director