Build, optimize, innovate: tilting more towards innovation in 2022

I've recently been reflecting on general modes of working, or types of work, what those look like in nature and what balance of approaches makes sense at a certain stage of company.

In particular, at this point in time Buffer has plateaued, at least in terms of revenue and customers. In 2021, ARR dropped from X to Y, and customers declined from X to Y. (Link to December thread).

The three buckets or categories of work are:

  • Maintenance: continuing smooth running of a process we already have in place and is working
  • Optimization: leveling up a process we already have in place to give a marginal improvement
  • Innovation: trying something completely new, where we cannot know the outcome and it could fail or give a step change improvement

I believe that at different phases of a company, a different balance makes sense between these buckets. At the very beginning of a company, it's almost all innovation, building from scratch. Going back a few years at Buffer, there was a time when we were growing at a fast steady pace and there was maintenance work and optimization that was valuable to keep that growth happening smoothly.

Today, we're in a different place. I would say that not only has our