Iteration, Take Two
In past blog posts, I’ve talked about how I love certain types of video games, and also how I love astronomy, so I thought “why not write a blog post about both of those?” Trust me, there’s a business lesson in this – we’re talking about the value of iteration – but first, the fun part.
One of my favorite games is Kerbal Space Program. It’s a program about a fictional group of “little green people” who like to build rockets, watch those rockets launch, then usually explode, but also occasionally get to orbit. As the player, you can take on multiple roles – you’re an astronaut, rocket engineer, NASA program manager and more – or you can play in “sandbox” mode where you just build rockets and see if they fly or not. When the Kerbal battle cry is “MORE BOOSTERS” you can imagine that the explosions are just as frequent as successful launches (thankfully Kerbals are pretty robust – in sandbox mode, they miraculously survive these massive firework shows).
When I play KSP, I’m in it more for the science it simulates. KSP includes a true solar system, with additional planets, moons and asteroids, all in proper orbits around the sun, and a serious player can build some really sophisticated ships to visit them. Importantly, KSP obeys the same laws of physics as we do (for the most part – it is a game after all), so you have to be smart about how you build your rockets. You don’t start out with the Space Shuttle or the mighty Saturn V rockets that sent Americans to the moon and back. Nope, you have to start with little tiny ships and gradually work your way up to these monster rockets. You design, build, test, redesign, rebuild, retest and eventually, you fly. And hope for no explosions.
That process is called iteration. And it’s deadly serious in the real world of rocketry. People aren’t sent to the space station on a whim, using technology that’s unproven. The Soyuz capsule and rocket the Russians use to launch astronauts and supplies was first used in 1966, and 50 years later, the same basic design is still in use. To be sure, the changes between a current generation Soyuz and that first generation are myriad – that’s iteration for you. Come up with a process (or a rocket) that works, and over time, intentionally come up with better versions of it.
You saw the process of iteration applied to the Affordable Care Act over the years between 2010 and 2014. But last year was different – 2015 marked the switch from design to application, from building that first rocket to actually firing it off. And while you can argue many of the finer points, generally the world didn’t come to an end. Does that mean the iterations are over with? Certainly not! Now is the time for you to review how you complied with the ACA in its first real year, and determine if you can change your approach to get a better outcome. You still need to avoid the explosions, but can you achieve better results by using a different affordability safe harbor, for instance? Or a different way of identifying full-time employees?
Embrace the iteration! It’s what leads to eventual success. I’m talking from experience here – this is like the fifth or sixth iteration of this blog post (the others thankfully will never see the light of day…). And when in doubt, always remember to add more boosters!
PS: for you parents out there, if you have a child struggling in math or science, trying to understand why physics is important (that was me oh those many years ago), KSP is a real fun introduction into that world – you may want to check it out!
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