The ‘Perfection’ Trap– Perfectionist Vs. Sweat the Small Stuff Vs. Don’t Get Lost In Detail: It’s All About Exceptionalism…

There are three major issues that derail most companies: First– waiting for a blinding flash of inspiration– some cosmic new concept that will turbo-charge the business…

Second– quest for perfectionism that turns into an obsession – so much so that the perfectionist becomes neurotic over gaining ‘perfection’ and refuses to accept anything less than perfect… Third– lack of focus, getting lost in detail, and never finding the right solution… and even if it is found, it’s probably too late since someone else beat them to it

So, What’s the lesson in all of this? Despite all the challenges– sustaining a business is not a mysterious process, but you can very easily ‘get stuck in detail’ midway through the process and loose– focus, direction, intensity… and not achieve your goal. Remember, there is no cosmic secret, no magic wand, no perfect solution… and more over, none are required… The companies that truly excel are those that create exceptionalism

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According to Aaron Levie; phrases like ‘this is good enough’ or ‘customers won’t notice’ should be stamped out of a management team’s vocabulary… because ultimately your product or service is consumed at the granular level… Whether it’s clicking on a link, signing up for a product, playing with a dial, conversing with an attendant… these are the interfaces from which customers experience your brand. No customer cares that you have the best logistics and supply chain in the world if the final manifestation of your product is flawed…

And with Internet amplifying how people share their love or hate for your brand, increasing global competition, contracting wallets… the quality of these interactions are more important than ever before… Hence, increasingly the ‘small things’ do matter and they have a disproportionate impact on the customer experience, and also become the competitive differentiation… Often the best customer experiences don’t come with a larger price tag at all, just a greater level of attention to the details… The combination of ‘insane’ attention to detail and ‘neurotic’ level of focus on the customer experience is what sets apart the ‘great’ from the ‘good’ companies

However, according to Vivian Giang; often being a detail nitpicker is more curse than blessing when it comes to running a business… There’s nothing wrong with setting a high bar, but sometimes it can do more harm than good and that is when you become too obsessed with perfection, you can end-up placing value on the wrong things, which become counter-productive… When you find yourself obsessing over details that don’t necessarily affect competitiveness, then it’s time to ask yourself: What do you really gain from being a perfectionist? According to Yaro Starak; if you are a ‘control freak’ and ‘perfectionist’ then ‘throw away your perfectionist hat’ and become less of a perfectionist and just get stuff done…

In the article Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect by Celestine Chua writes: Most people are perfectionist in their own right, and a dedication towards that perfection undoubtedly helps you to achieve great results. Yet, there is a hidden flip side to being perfectionists that you may not be aware of… For sure, being perfectionists and having a keen eye for details that help you achieve some level of excellent, however as ironic as it might sound perfectionism at its extreme, prevents you from being your best.

However, the problem isn’t perfectionism; well not the normal form of anyway. Perfectionism helps you to continuously aim for higher standards and become better, and that’s a good thing… But, the problem is when the quest for perfectionism turns into an ‘obsession’so much that the perfectionist becomes ‘neurotic’ in a quest to gain ‘perfection’ and refuses to accept anything less than perfect and such a perfectionist can be known as a ‘mal-adaptive’ perfectionist 

The answer is not to stop being perfectionist; it’s to be more conscious of your perfectionist tendencies and manage them accordingly, become a more healthy perfectionists who is truly achieving excellence, and not a perfectionist who is sabotaging the business that they are trying to improve…

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In the article Balance Fearlessness With Attention to Detail by Penelope Trunk writes: I saw a bumper sticker that said; What would you do if failure were not an option? Then, when I went through my own list of what I would do, I realized that if I stopped worrying about failure I would be able to do a lot more. So I started focusing on just ‘getting stuff done’, instead of ‘getting it done perfectly’; then many unnecessary details just fell by the wayside…

I also noticed that once I stopped worrying about doing something perfectly, I didn’t have nearly as much reason for procrastination. It’s easy to start something if you tell yourself that getting it done 70% perfect (as opposed to 100%) is okay. Believe it or not, in most cases, 70% perfect is okay for what you do…

Getting rid of perfectionism and procrastination can serve you well… With this mind-set you can explore all sorts of ways to find success… You can flourish in business by being flexible, adaptive, and not getting stuck in a lot of unnecessary details — you can jump fearlessly from project to project and advance your experience… So, if you are obsessive with perfectionism, take a break from getting lost in the detail and get stuff done…

In the article Create Something Exceptional, Sweat the Small Stuff  by Aaron Levie writes: Many companies have given up on caring about ‘excellence’… According to Steve Jobs; some people are not used to an environment where excellence is expected… It should be everyone’s responsibility to push for higher standards and a greater level of excellence… But many leading organizations are built by exploiting the ‘fringes of excellence’; fringe in quality, fringe in performance, fringe in innovation, fringe in cost…

But to create things that are exceptional– ‘sweat the small stuff’, meaning to be uncompromising about the quality of a product and the delivery of the best possible customer experience. It means making trade-offs of time, effort, cost… for the efficacy of the final output. It means the implementation of business systems that ensure the highest level of excellence at all times, in any circumstance. It means delaying product releases, extending work hours, losing a little extra profit margin to– make things just right…

It also means asking the tough questions, e.g.: What solution is best for the customer? And even this question does not go nearly far enough, and instead ask: What solution will blow the customers’ minds? Then repeat the question, again: Can you do better? Just keep on asking, until the point of migraine-induced annoyance, then see how much things change…

Create a business culture that continually– challenge your level of excellence,  repeatedly, every step of the way… also, if quality standards are not met– implement a ‘you-won’t-ship’ line in the sand, which cannot be subverted for any reason… If you are not paranoid about perfection, you are probably not aiming expectations high enough. Sadly for customers, the vast majority of companies will never put this level of focus on their products, services, interactions…

By building this mind-set in the business culture and making sure it’s a collective and distributed effort throughout the organization, it’s a winning way to ensure a truly exceptional customer experience  

In the article Perfectionism Is The Enemy Of Everything by Amanda Neville writes: For many perfectionism has its benefits, especially in work where it motivates over-achievers to pursue high standards, new visions. Perfectionists are driven to improve, innovate… and typically they are disciplined and detail-oriented, which are critical in professions where there is little margin for error… Culturally, business leaders prize perfectionism, e.g.; Steve Jobs and Martha Stewart are frequently credited with insisting that their teams strive for perfection…

But, you don’t usually talk about the impact of the perfectionist on the workers who must engage with– the control freaks and the collateral damage of their creativity… The problem arises when the perfectionist take things too far: They define impossible expectations or standards and then devalue workers that cannot meet them. It’s a toxic loop– rigidity is difficult for most workers and insistence on perfect solution, which does not make space for– the important but messy business of collaboration

How do you know if you are a perfectionist and whether it’s helping or hindering your business? According to Don Hamacheck; there are two forms of perfectionism: normal and neurotic… the ‘normal’ perfectionist strives to achieve greatness but does not obsess about it or let it negatively affect the business… The ‘neurotic’ perfectionist, on the other hand, is miserable and often feels fear, shame, worthlessness… because they are linked to impossible goals

According to LaRae Quy; the most successful business leaders are those that can think fast on their feet, adapt to fast-moving situations, and remain nimble and flexible… which is in direct conflict with the mind-set of a perfectionist…

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Most business schools and jobs don’t teach– the importance to ‘sweat the small stuff’… In fact, you are mostly told the opposite– don’t be a micro-manager, don’t be penny wise, pound foolish, don’t miss the forest for the trees… The implied wisdom is that– abstract, conceptual thinking always prevails over narrow determination and single-mindedness. Yet, when you look at the– great inventions, great companies, great innovators… their success always comes down to tireless concern over every detail However, whether you call it– ‘sweat the small stuff’ or ‘perfectionist’ or ‘don’t get lost in detail’… it all really does not matter because in the final analyses you must deliver– the right stuff, the right time, the right places, the right value… and provide exceptional customer experience in order to have a growing and sustainable business

Perfectionism is common today simply because the narrative that you learned from an early age, namely; if you work hard enough you can achieve whatever you want, and the push to be ‘perfection’ is important to achieve your goals… but, what was never said in this narrative was that your quest for perfection can also quash your dreams– it depends on the level of perfection that you seek; is it obsessive or adaptive? 

According to Stephen A. Diamond; perfectionism has taken a bum rap; but were it not for perfectionism you  would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities you deem– extraordinary, excellent, outstanding, exceptional… however, it seems that perfectionism and its virtues have come to be devalued, vilified… Once upon a time perfectionism was perceived not as neurosis, but as a sign of– commitment, caring, high standards… 

Hence, business leaders need to  regain the passion for business excellence and effectively manage the critical balance of– perfection, focus, small stuff, good enough… in their quest to deliver the ultimate customer experience– it’s all about creating exceptionalism in your business