The Perfect Imperfect

As a recovering perfectionist….

Actually, that’s hard for me to say because I’m certain you’re going to read that and think of all the things I’ve done imperfectly that have positively ruined your life. But I must persevere with my quest for recovery. So…

As a recovering perfectionist, I found it interesting and amazing that my class from the creative geniuses at IDEO in human-centered design encourages rough cuts.

In fact, imperfection is part of the process. After research and brainstorming, you pick an idea to throw into the world, half-baked.

It’s called prototyping. I know you all know what prototyping is, but a perfectionist might say that’s just a fancy word for not being done. And that would be correct. Because it’s not done until you ask people – the people who will be using it – what they think of it.

The perfectionist approach, on the other hand, is: you pay me a lot of money to tell you what’s going to work, and then I go create it. This has some merit, because:

  1. I am an idea factory who regularly comes up with all sorts of creative approaches to solving communications problems.
  2. There are many tried-and-true techniques at which I excel and that we know are effective.
  3. I bring the objectivity of an outsider, along with the expanded perspective of someone who’s solved similar challenges at other companies.

But putting something half-baked into the world. Whoa. The perfectionist in me wonders: Are you going to pay me for that?

I think you should.

Let’s bake together. Your team – with inside perspective. My team – with everything mentioned above. Your audiences/users – with real-world, hands-on insight. That’s the ideal combination to create something truly useful.

Together, we bake something and test it with those who matter most – people who will actually read/view/consume what we’ve created.

Do you like the taste? Does it need more salt? Sugar? Oh. You don’t eat sugar. How about a little stevia instead? I wouldn’t have thought of that if I hadn’t asked you, the actual consumer of the product.

While we can learn a lot from market research, there’s nothing like hearing it straight from the source.

It’s become popular to fail – something the tech world has been doing for years. Entrepreneurs get millions of dollars of funding to test out an idea that goes nowhere. And then they get millions more to try something else.

But this hasn’t reached Corporate America. In many company cultures, trying just isn’t good enough. The consequences of failure are too high. But what if trying were built into the process? What if sharing your best guess was required or – gasp! – even rewarded?

After all, isn’t our entire life a prototype? We get up every day and do our best to make happen what needs to happen. Some days it goes better than others. We go back and try again the next day, incorporating the feedback we got from our family, friends and colleagues.

And so we evolve. We are still and always imperfect, but better, which makes this imperfect prototyping – in work and in life – absolutely the perfect thing to do.