Improvements can take place through natural evolution as long as each previous design is studied and the craftsperson is willing to be flexible. The bad features have to be identified. The [designers] change the bad features and keep the good ones unchanged. If a change makes matters worse, well, it just gets changed again on the next go-around. Eventually the bad features get modified into good ones, while the good ones are kept. The technical term for this process is “hill-climbing,” analogous to climbing a hill in the dark. Move your foot in one direction. If it is downhill, try another direction. If the direction is uphill, take one step. Keep doing this until you have reached a point where all steps would be downhill; then you are at the top of the hill–or at least a local peak.
— The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
Local peaks are not bad things. They are, within a certain range, as good as it gets. But if you want to go higher, you need to go down to go up. Many have seen the local peak and noted only that all paths away lead down, so we can do naught but muddle about at this height.
Ideally, you are not hill-climbing in the dark and your vision is leading you in the right direction. Some people will head in the right direction but not go far enough to get higher. Some will not even make it to the next hill, backtracking towards the familiar local peak, perhaps getting tired and falling short. You could break your legs trying to straddle the divide. People atop the local peak will point to the failures below.
And then someone proves that the next hill over is higher. They climb and keep climbing. It often seems to be the next guy who makes it to the top first, while the trailblazer was tired from trying all those false paths along the way. And, of course, there is a rush from the last local peak to this one, which is now proclaimed to be the greatest summit ever, the greatest summit possible.