Every so often we hear the phrase “Don't let perfect get in the way of good” – but I am not convinced that goes far enough. What we should say is, “Don't let good get in the way of better.” We need to challenge the conventional wisdom that urges us to avoid the pursuit of perfection in favor of delivering a merely good product or service. While it's true that striving for perfection can frequently be a recipe for disappointment and delay, settling for mediocrity is not the answer. The key is to find the right balance between getting something out the door quickly and continuing to improve it over time through a process of iteration.
Iteration, Iteration, Iteration
Iteration is a critical way to improve things over time. It involves releasing a product or service that is good enough to use, but not perfect, and then refining it based on user feedback, market research, and other information. This approach allows you to create something that is better than what you started with, without getting bogged down in the pursuit of perfection or even of “good enough”.
This philosophy can be applied to many types of knowledge work, from writing to software development. For example, developers often fall into the trap of trying to make a product perfect before releasing it to the public. This can lead to long delays, missed deadlines, and frustrated users. Instead, developers should focus on getting something out the door quickly and then iterating on it based on user feedback. This approach allows developers to respond to user needs and enhance the product much faster than if they were trying to create a perfect product from the outset.
Not like this
It makes me think of a drawing by Hendrik Kniberg, which has become popular and is used in presentations related to agile and lean development. The drawing is a metaphor about product development, using a car as an example.
This shows us two ways of building a car. In the 'Not Like This' example, the product gets built entirely before delivery, which can be risky, and the final product is most likely to have design flaws based on incorrect assumptions. You might see this as iteration, as there are steps – but it's not iterating in making something incrementally more valuable. In contrast, in the 'Like This!' example, the team focuses on the customer's underlying need, delivers the smallest testable product to get feedback, and learns from it. The key question is to find the cheapest and fastest way to start learning.
But we need it to be “right”
The idea of getting things “right” is a tiny box invented by people who are afraid to be seen as less than. They believe that if they release something that is less than perfect, they will be perceived as incompetent. However, the reality is that perfection is an illusion. There will always be room for improvement, no matter how good something is. By embracing iteration, you can acknowledge this fact and focus on making continuous improvements over time.
Creating a culture of iteration is key to making this approach work. This means encouraging a mindset where people are willing to release something that is good enough and then work together to improve it over time. It also means providing the tools and resources necessary to support this process, such as user feedback mechanisms, data analytics tools, and a willingness to experiment with new ideas.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it allows you to deliver more value faster. By releasing something early and then iterating on it, you can get a product or service into the hands of users much faster than if you were trying to create something perfect from the outset. This can be particularly important in fast-moving industries where speed is of the essence, such as technology or finance.
Another benefit of this approach is that it can help you to avoid costly mistakes. By releasing something early and then iterating on it based on user feedback, you can catch problems and fix them before they become major issues. This can save you time and money in the long run, as well as help you to build a reputation for quality and responsiveness.
Shipped is better than perfect
“Don't let good get in the way of better” is a powerful reminder of the importance of iteration in improving products and services over time. By focusing on getting something out the door quickly and then iterating on it based on user feedback, you can create something that is better than what you started with, without getting bogged down in the pursuit of perfection. This approach can be applied to many types of knowledge work, and can help you to deliver _good_ things even faster than you thought was possible.
* This BrendanAI was generated by an AI/ML model from ElevenLabs. Learn more at https://beta.elevenlabs.io