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  • Writer's picturerahulmd

Progress Over Perfection

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

All too often, product and technology teams strive to be perfect in the products they develop.

There are several issues with chasing perfection:

  1. Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder - Perfection is very personal. I may think that something is perfect and you might think it is MEH! What product teams think is perfect may not be what end users think is perfect. Ultimately its customers and users point of view that counts.

  2. Perfection is Here and Now - I might do something and look at the output/ outcome and think that it is perfect today. However when I look at it tomorrow/ next week/ next month I will probably go "What crap!"

  3. Perfection can prevent progress - When we chase perfection and we think that we have achieved it, that could prevent us from improving on the "perfect state". When you couple this with the fact that perfection is here and now, this can be very dangerous for product teams. A "progressive" competitor could come along and blow you away with an improved offering which could be more in keeping with the times.

  4. When you are trying to reach a state of perfection, it can put a lot of pressure on you because the bar is so HIGH. The fear of failure to reach the perfect state can prevent you from even starting. Quoting from Bernard Moerman’s TED talk, Recalibrate Your S.E.L.F. – "You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to become great!"

In the context of product teams all those sayings against chasing perfection make a lot of sense:

  • Perfection is the enemy of progress

  • Perfection is a myth

  • Perfection is the enemy of done

I have found that a different mindset is more useful for product teams - Progress over Perfection. I first came across the concept "Progress over Perfection" way back in 2012 on a post-it note stuck on my brother-in-law Aravindan's work desk at home.

So how do you adopt a Progress Over Perfection approach?

Key things to keep in mind-

  1. Get started in the general direction you want to go putting in your best effort

  2. Take an experimental approach and be open to learning from your experiences

  3. Keep iterating to make incremental improvements till you reach a satisfactory state. And you should be ready to come back and revisit things even when you are satisfied with things.

I personally love Garmin's take on this mindset - BeatYesterday!

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