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An Iteration Versus A Change

Richard Sites

by , studio executive | @rhillsites

At the heart of the Savvy process is the iteration. Taking small purposeful steps forward in an effort to both create and uncover the appropriate design, content, media and interaction. The idea of iterating toward your goal may be easy to understand – even exciting to think about – but putting it into action might be a little more challenging.

There are myriad reasons why implementing an iterative process in your organization may be challenging, especially if you have always worked through a traditional, sequenced process. So I won’t even attempt to address them all. Rather I will focus on the main challenge in the effective implementation of an iterative process: What is an iteration?

There is a very common misunderstanding about iterations and using an iterative process. I often hear people say that they already use an iterative process, when in fact they use a process that has a lot of changes in it. When I press them to tell me how they iterate through the process, I am usually told of how they “added a button” or “changed the color” or “revised the content.”

While all of these are certainly methods of implementing an iteration, they alone are not iterations – they are changes. So what’s the difference – and the big deal after all? Everything!

As I mentioned earlier, iterations are purposeful reconsiderations of the previous form in an effort to better address the performance or learning objective. A change is merely the alteration of some element. Simply stated, an iteration is a cycle of review and redesign focused on improving the instructional moment.

So why is this distinction important? Well, remember the “E” at the end of ADDIE? It stands for evaluation. In an iterative process we don’t have to wait until the end to reach the E. As long as there is something to evaluate, the iterative process allows for evaluation at any point. An iteration gives us that moment – a change doesn’t.

Let’s put it like this: If someone does not like the gift you gave them, which is the best way to ensure you get it right next time?


  1. Change the wrapping paper.
  2. Move the bow to the other side.
  3. Use less tape.
  4. Get another gift.

Happy Holidays to all of you and we will continue this chat next year!