Why Perfection in Business Doesn’t Exist (and What You Should be Focusing on Instead)
I’m going to say something that a lot of you won’t want to hear. Ready for it?
You’re not perfect. And you’re never going to be perfect. If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re probably wasting someone’s time. So please, for the love of God, stop thinking you can be and move on. Your company will be better for it.
Okay. Glad I got that off my chest. Can we still be friends?
In all seriousness, I’m not standing on this virtual soapbox trying to belittle you or make the argument that mediocrity and failure are acceptable outcomes in business. Far from it. Instead, I’m trying to dispel the prevailing belief that perfection exists in business, or that wildly successful companies like Apple or Facebook have achieved it.
They haven’t and no other company has either, because perfection doesn’t exist in business.
By definition, perfection is the absolute highest degree of excellence you can reach. If you’re a bowler, you’re perfect if you bowl a 300. It’s quantifiable, definitive, and absolute. In business, there’s no analogous situation. There’s no universally accepted definition of perfect, which means there’s no end game to shoot for.
So why do so many of us hold ourselves to the standard of being perfect?
Yes, for you high achievers, perfectionism is part of your DNA. And that’s fine. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to try to be a perfectionist. I am saying that banging your head against a wall trying to achieve it is not productive. In fact, it’s probably holding your business back.
All too often, companies delay executing something because they’re shooting for an ideal that doesn’t exist. They spend three, six, or 12 months developing a supposedly flawless hypothesis or an apparently airtight product. In the process, they often miss out on the opportunity they were trying to capture in the first place.
That’s why I’m going to suggest an alternative ideology.
In my mind, perfection is setting realistic, impactful goals and accomplishing them. It’s being quick to act on an opportunity, and then experimenting, responding, and iterating based on feedback. It’s setting shorter deadlines and hitting them.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss a handful of things every company should focus on to achieve their relative business utopia. Here are a few of things I’ll touch on:
- Set really good SMART goals and hit them: If you’re not familiar with the acronym, SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. In essence, if you can set goals that meet those criteria and then actually achieve them, that’s as realistic as perfection gets.
- Operate with a true sense of urgency, rather than striving for perfection: By aligning actions with your highest priorities, you’ll be driven by the positive emotions that success brings and you’ll find out quickly if what you’re working on is really worth the time you’re investing.
- Focus on making an impact: If making a massive impact drives everything you do, you’ll act more quickly on opportunities, execute with discipline, passion and enthusiasm, and ultimately spend time on the activities that drive results.
Now, doing those things doesn’t mean you won’t fail. That’s really an inevitability of doing business, isn’t it? But by honing in on those things — rather than trying to be perfect at everything — you’ll ultimately be more successful. And wouldn’t you rather build a $100 million imperfect business than a perfect bankrupt one?
I think we all know the answer to that, but I’d love to hear your argument if you feel differently. Tee it up in the comments section below!