Alberto Savola popularized the idea of pretoyping, which is of a chord with ideas like "fail fast" or the various tricks in The Lean Startup. The basic idea is simple: before building a prototype, build the simplest thing that could vet your idea. Why build a website when even a Google doc would do?
It's no surprise that the idea hits on something fundamental: to live in reality, you must constantly know the ground under your feet, which means talking to others and testing against something real.
I think it's this principle, more than anything, that creates outstanding work: knowing the terrain under your feet so deeply that you no longer need a map.