Step-Change vs Optimization vs Refinement - Great Demo

Step-Change vs Optimization vs Refinement

I was watching an Audi advertisement that showed a new Audi owner trying to decide which of four headlight display options to choose from… It made me think:

Products (and services) go through three stages:

  1. Step-Change, resulting from Invention and pioneering, yielding major step-changes in performance, practices, or offering new dimensions.
  2. Optimization, resulting in substantive, ongoing improvement of existing offerings.
  3. Refinement, result in “polishing” through small improvements or additions to existing offerings.

This cycle, from Step-Change to Optimization to Refinement, is then surpassed and overwhelmed by new inventions yielding step-changes to the next levels.


  • During the Step-Change stage (invention and pioneering) change is very fast.
  • Optimization slows the rate of change somewhat with a series of steady improvements, which typically provide more value than the cost of the investment.
  • Refinement slows the rate of change even more and “improvements” in the Refinement stage typically do not deliver significant incremental value for the investment.

Airplanes provide an example:

  • Biplanes were invented (e.g., Wright brothers) yielding new ways to travel (and truly enabling a new dimension in travel!): A major step change, that was then optimized, and then refined (check out the Beech Staggerwing as an example of Refinement)
  • Monoplanes represented the next Step-Change, enabling major improvements in speed, efficiency, altitude, and other performance parameters. The fabulous Spitfire is an example of that Step-Change; the progression from the Mark I to Mark 24 is a wonderful representation of Optimization.
  • Jets were the next Step-Change. Optimization progressed from the Comet to the 707 to the A380 and the 787; the 737 Max could be a sad example of the risks of Refinement!

Skills and methodologies are also applicable and subject to this cycle.

For example, Great Demo! represents a major Step-Change from traditional demos and traditional demo methodologies. Continued innovations (e.g., Vision Generation Demos) have resulted in more Step-Changes. Optimization in ongoing improved methods of storytelling in demos, virtual demos, automated demos, demo environments, other forms of proof, buyer enablement practices, and more.

Similarly, the Doing Discovery methodology provides another game-changing Step-Change from traditional qualification and discovery practices, providing organizations with major opportunities to differentiate and win, while reducing No Decision outcomes, shrink churn, and outflank competition.

(You can find the Great Demo! and Doing Discovery books on Amazon and training options at

Where are your products on this spectrum? Where are your skills and your team’s skills in this cycle? Where should they be?


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