THE PERIL OF PERFECTION

Doing the right things right is a good thing, right? Doing things ‘perfectly’ can be exhausting, with perfection being subjective anyway.




Most individuals take care in their endeavours and want to add value. This is noble and should be encouraged. Further, there are those who are hyper-meticulous and ‘sweat’ every detail before presenting and completing things. This is also noble and should be encouraged. However, perfectionism can put you out of business.


We’ve been advised, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’, ‘The devil is in the detail’, ‘The last 10% takes 90% of the time’ and ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’. How do we know what to do when this sage advice contradicts itself? I posit that finding the all-elusive equilibrium is more an art than science. Here are some pointers to assist.


Although perfectionists dread the idea of ‘Failing’ at all, Eric Reis’s Lean Startup principle advocates failing fast and, more specifically, failing at an early stage, learning fast from failures, and eventually succeeding faster. Reis’s reasoning behind allowing oneself to fail fast is to iterate rapidly, and avoid getting ‘stuck’ in perfectionism. The objective is to arrive swiftly at a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that we then ‘perfect’ over time. As referenced here, Reis defines an MVP as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”. The reference to ‘a new product’ and ‘team’ can pertain to absolutely anything you create or execute on your own and with others. Most importantly, get on with it!


Counterintuitively, if you have writer’s-block, write. If your organisation is so dysfunctional that you don’t know where to start your strategic plan, commit what you know to paper. Get ‘runs on the board’ to Execute-Learn-Adjust-Repeat.


I bet if our obsession with perfection had words, it would say “What will others think?”. As ever, it’s our fear of failure, especially publicly, that has us obsess about details that often add no tangible value or impact to our creation or deliverable. Without mistakes, there's no knowledge. Engage with progression and not perfection.


As it is often scary to ‘pull the trigger’ on sharing your creation with the world, I employ Susan Jeffers’ principle of ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’. No-nonsense academic and systems thinker Prof Tom Ryan has also often told me, ‘don’t second-guess the outcome’.


Yours in participation and imperfection.


#education #macleaneducation #perfection

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