#47 Visionary vs. incremental approach

In a product development team, you tend to see roughly two types of approaches.visionary approach, which are 1 – a visionary approach and 2- an incremental approach.

#1 tends to be taken by some product managers and UX designers, while #2 tends to be taken by many engineers.

From my own experience as a UX designer, I’d say both approaches are important for a balanced product development. As a UX designer, you need to be exposed to both approach and perspective, ideally in any projects.

Now of course, a project scope may define which approach needs to be more primary than the other.

For example, an advanced design concept project looking into the future may require completely a visionary approach.

And if you are working on a very tight deadline to launch an enhanced version of an already existing product, you may need to focus primarily on incremental approach.

Visionary approach

A visionary approach requires you to be more open to new ideas, not limited by current constraints, and encourage out of the box thinking towards what is an ideal user experience for a given product or a service.

If you have never worked on such a project and always been working on a project where all the requirements are set and given to you, you might feel uncomfortable first as nothing is defined.

In this case, because nothing is defined for you, you as a UX designer is the one who needs to make bunch of assumptions and hypotheses to build concepts.

While this is a great opportunity to unleash your creativity and expand your ability to create something out of nothing, it could get too blue-sky and ungrounded.

Incremental approach

On the other hand, an incremental approach tends to get yourself locked in to a very limited short-sighted perspective. 

It’s easier to build some minor enhancements based on an already existing product.

And you can still build something meaningful out of this approach for sure.

In reality, many ongoing projects fall under this category.

But even in this kind of situation with a tight deadline, it would still be worth taking time and putting things in perspective, and try to incorporate an essence of a visionary approach, to at least think about what would be the next step, the next next step after the current version of the product.

This may help not getting trapped in a vicious cycle of technical debts, where a short-sighted temporary solution piling up overtime and making things harder to change.

When both approaches connect together

Once a visionary approach and an incremental approach connect together in form of a concrete roadmap with milestones, a product strategy becomes much more powerful, solid and meaningful.

At that point, you will have a clear incremental steps that you can take from today to reach and achieve the vision.

A vision without steps to get there is meaningless.

An incremental approach without a vision does not have a future.

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