We all remember that one kid at kindergarten who painted within the drawing lines. At my school, I was that kid.
The first signs of my perfectionist personality appeared when I was 3 years old. And, truth be told, throughout my 19 years of schooling — from kindergarten to college — being a perfectionist had many benefits: it motivated me to pursue higher standards & new visions; it allowed me to improve & innovate; and it made me disciplined & detail-oriented, which consequently led to excellent grades and prizes. Even after graduation, having an eye for detail and working my ass off to deliver perfect outputs payed off. Personally, being a perfectionist has never backfired on me.
However, over the past year, I have noticed that perfectionism is considered a negative trait more often than not. If you google ‘perfectionism’ you will find that over 90% of search results lead to negative articles around the topic. You will even find a Forbes article titled “Perfectionism Is The Enemy of Everything”. But, has perfectionism truly become a liability? When did this happen?
As the world keeps moving faster and faster (…and faster!), the idea of ‘done is better than perfect’ — originally acquainted by Facebook — has permeated the business world. Operating under this ideology allows to launch quickly & early and if done right, can lead to disrupting the most prestigious industries in the world. Nevertheless, if done wrong, can lead to having a bunch of mediocre products, brands and companies that nobody gives two cents for.
Earlier this year, Paul Graham declared on twitter that only 37 of the 511 companies that have gone through the Y Combinator program over the past five years have either sold for, or are now worth, more than US$40 million. This means barely 0.4% of the companies that apply to Y Combinator succeed. The figure is alarming and to a great extent has to do with entrepreneurs and business people more worried about launching MVPs quickly to attract investors, rather than putting a little more effort into their ideas and product development.
If we want to have more companies like Google and Apple we need to get rid of the dogma that ‘done’ and ‘perfect’ cannot be in the same room. Sometimes companies do not need to be launched early, they need to be launched with high-standards. Most of the times products do not need to be launched with all the features, they need to be launched with few — yet perfect — features.
If handled well, perfectionism can benefit your business in some (or all) of the following ways:
- A streamlined work process: Perfectionists are hyper-organized, which allows them to work more efficiently and waste less valuable time. They can handle virtually anything that comes their way: from a crowded inbox to new projects. The best part is that they are able to remain calm instead of becoming stressed since they are not working under pressure caused by not knowing where some files are or having a messy desk.
- A polished end result: Most likely, if you adopt the perfectionist mindset, by the time your product is delivered to your clients it will be as polished as it can get — even if it is just an MVP. Jack Dorsey loves to say that you have to make every single detail perfect, but you have to limit the number of details. This is a definite plus and can lead to more customers when you launch a newer version with more features.
- Fewer fixes later on: Perfectionists check and double-check things before considering them to be completed and you can play this to your advantage. One of the greatest direct benefits of being a perfectionist is that there are fewer bug-fixes (often unbillable), which at the end of the day also means your clients and users will be happier.
Stop trading high-standards for mediocrity. Mediocrity is cheap and easy. Decades ago investors funded ideas. Then, everyone began having good ideas and investors began demanding for MVPs. Today, with all kind of resources a click away, many people can learn how to code and make a good MVP. What do you think investors will demand next if not perfection? Remember the extra 1% can — and most probably will — make a difference. These days ‘good enough’ just isn’t.