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“Successive approximation” is a technique used to change behaviours in psychotherapy. Once a desired behaviour (eg quit smoking) has been identified, a series of incremental changes are planned. These may be: reduce consumption by 10% in a fortnight, then 25% by end of the month, then 50% by the end of the quarter. These smaller approximations of the ultimate goal are easier to accomplish. Having regular successes helps motivate the client.

A similar concept can be found in Design Thinking. This is the MVP or Minimum Viable Product. As the development of a product progresses, incremental versions are released. Customers use these and provide feedback. This feedback is then incorporated into the next MVP release. Developing a product this way delivers usable outcomes to the client and keeps the developers closely tethered to the actual, and often gradually emerging, needs of the client.

Are you struggling with a large problem? How can you break it down into successive approximations?