We’ve all said the phrase “In a perfect world . . .” at one time or another to describe what we view as an ideal situation. In a perfect world, we would release a flawless product that our customers love. In a perfect world, our solution would revolutionize the industry and be the preferred choice by everyone. In a perfect world, our customer service team would get it right every time. It’s a pie-in-the-sky wish for how we hope something will turn out. But how often does “perfect” happen? Most would agree it’s rare, but regardless, we all strive for it to the point of stifling progress. That’s why avoiding the perfect trap is crucial to growing and advancing businesses and brands.
Perfection Drives Paralysis
A manufacturing CEO shared an analysis of his brand: “Our product has decent features, but we could be far better. We have more than our share of issues and have a long way to go. It’s frustrating.” He was focused on the imperfections of this otherwise strong company. He was caught in the perfect trap, waiting for the day when things would be just right. The danger is if you wait until everything is just right, by the time you can launch or re-launch your brand or product, almost everything has changed—the economy, the competition, even the world itself. Your opportunity for success is diminished.
Perfection Hinders Creativity
Aiming for perfect often prevents the most creative outcomes. It’s through imperfections and even mishaps that the greatest creativity can emerge. For example, there are countless hit songs that were born accidentally when a performer placed his or her fingers in the “wrong” spot on the guitar or keyboard. That “mistake” was embraced and turned into something magical. (Here’s a music performance “secret.” If a musician makes a mistake in a song during a concert, they will often repeat that mistake so that common folks like us don’t think it was an error.)
Upholding the goal of perfection is intimidating for everyone. It can prevent ideas from being voiced for fear of being less than spot-on. Employees may be less apt to participate for fear of letting the team down. Or they may be unwilling to work with someone who demands nothing less than perfection because it’s demotivating and unachievable.
Perfection is Subjective
According to Psychology Today, perfection is a subjective concept. What seems perfect to one person might be very different from someone else’s view of perfection. This makes it elusive even to the most devoted perfectionists. You can’t please everyone, but you can work toward pleasing most, which is still a resounding win for any company.
Perfection Prevents Improvement
Let’s say a company’s leaders view their product as perfect. Does that mean all advancement halts? If it’s perfect, does everyone just go home? Perfection can be a hindrance to incremental improvement. We all accept and expect the “fixes” we receive on our iPhones. Many of those updates represent flaws that needed to be remedied, yet we’re good with those. Why can’t it be the same with a brand, a product, a marketing strategy, a website, a blog, etc.? Improvements are often seen as positive rather than a disappointment that something wasn’t perfect from the get-go. A company that’s continually working to make its products better shows its innovation and its investment in continual improvement.
The goal is finding the sweet spot between waiting for perfect and getting as close to it as possible without letting it stop progress. Ship it. Get it out the door. Have a plan in place to monitor opportunities for improvement and build on it from there. A brand or product doesn’t have to be perfect or the best for it to succeed. It needs to be differentiated, to represent something of unique value. Great brands can be both powerful and imperfect. When a brand is differentiated and customers see its value, they are more understanding when improvements must be made. In fact, they’ll appreciate the brand even more. Freeing yourself from the perfect trap unlocks the potential for extraordinary thinking and amazing results. It’s not about perfect; it’s about progress.