Perfectly Imperfect

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Aircraft Carrier in Dry Dock

So many great business ideas go to waste because of failure to launch.

We want to launch something great. So we delay launching until our marketing is right, and feels right, and says the right things, and everything “fits” perfectly.

But this strive for perfection leads to delay, inaction, paralysis, overwhelm, self-criticism…

Sheryl Sandberg has a great quote: “Done is better than perfect.”

There’s a fault in the way that humans are hard-wired to think.

On the one hand, we strive for perfection. We have grand plans and ambitions. And we don’t want to release something that is likely to reflect poorly on ourselves.
On the other hand, we are our own biggest critics – so nothing is ever quite “good enough” or “perfect”.

Stanford Professor of Psychology, Carol Dweck, has a huge body of research about the types of mindsets that lead to high-achievement and success – and the types of mindsets that lead to failure, overwhelm, inaction, and paralysis. She frames this research in the terms “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset”.

A fixed mindset is about win/loss, success/failure, good/bad, works/doesn’t;
A growth mindset recognises that – through effort, positive action, and persistence – we can improve outcomes.

What she’s found over 30 years of research is that a growth mindset leads to far greater success than a fixed mindset. In sport. In leadership. In relationships. And in business too.

The growth mindset can be applied to marketing too.

Something “done” and “imperfect” is something we can begin learning from, and improving on – based on the feedback and results we achieve.

And – when compared with something “delayed” and “perfected” – we can achieve far better results in far less time, by getting our marketing out, and refining what we do.

(This is the reason why agile software developers focus on “minimum viable products” – and getting something out to market sooner, rather than waiting for a perfect and bug-free app before release.)

“Done is better than perfect” doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with imperfection. And it doesn’t mean we should launch something so riddled with holes and problems that is doomed to fail.

But it does means we get better results working towards completion than perfection.

After all, you can’t steer a ship that’s still sitting in dry-dock.