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Why microsteps are the only way to innovate

Microsteps aren't just key to innovation—they're the only way to innovate.

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When Apple introduced iPhone in 2007, even Steve Jobs himself could not have imagined the true extent of profoundly global impact this device would go on to achieve in the following years, veritably revolutionizing how we live our day-to-day lives by putting the Internet in our pockets and palms.

Similarly, if you were to rewind the clock back to 1984 and speak to a young Steve Jobs debuting Macintosh, the first mass-market PC with a built-in graphical user interface and mouse that arguably ushered in an entirely new era of home computing, Jobs would have been unable to envision the iPhone he presented to the world almost two and a half decades later.

And if you were to travel yet further back in time to 1976, speaking to an even younger 21-year-old Steve Jobs with his original Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (plus the third, oft forgotten cofounder Ron Wayne, who infamously sold his 10% ownership stake in Apple for just $2,300 that same year), they would be hard-pressed to envision anything beyond the rather simplistic Apple I computer, which went on sale for $666.66 in July 1976.

All of this is to say that even Steve Jobs, who is widely celebrated as one of the most dynamic visionaries in modern history, could not have foreseen the Apple Inc. of today as he closed the first wholesale of 50 Apple I computers to Byte Shop for $500 each. After all, who could possibly imagine that a simple, albeit cutting-edge at the time, device like the Apple I would serve as the genesis of the world’s first trillion dollar company?

The history of Apple, rising from garage startup to world-leading tech firm by continually delivering new and radical product innovations, illustrates something important about microsteps: they are the only way to bring meaningful innovation to life.

A similar trajectory can be observed with the rise of Facebook, which was initially launched in February 2004 as a Harvard-only social network for students to post photos and information about themselves, including club memberships and class schedules. Soon after, with a rapidly growing base of users, Facebook expanded to Yale and Stanford, where it continued gaining popularity as user growth accelerated.

By June 2004, Facebook had expanded to 34 schools with over 250,000 users registered on the platform. It introduced the “Wall” to user profiles in September 2004, marking a critical moment in the development of the young social network, as this feature improved user engagement and interaction. By the time 2004 drew to a close, Facebook boasted over one million users.

The following year saw more key developments for Facebook, including the rollout of the photo “tagging” feature and an expansion to high school students and universities outside the United States. These were all critical to the continued growth of Facebook, which claimed more than six million monthly active users by the end of 2005.

Subsequent years brought the introduction of other hallmark features, including Feeds, Groups, and advertising-related products and services. All of these innovations happened incrementally but were instrumental in the continued ascension of what would become one of the world’s most influential Internet companies. This narrative underscores the importance of microsteps for innovation.

Microsteps represent small, repeatable actions that we consistently execute to improve our health and well-being. As innovators focused on delivering improvements to the products and services around us, we can adapt this concept to our professional pursuits. That’s why we examine the histories of companies like Apple and Facebook, paying attention to how they took microsteps to bring grand innovations to fruition.

Like the ancient Chinese proverb reads, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It’s often impossible for us as humans to envision our ultimate destination, but with enough determination and a willingness to take things one microstep at a time, we can all start down the path to building things greater than we ever could have imagined.

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