Have you ever found yourself working on a project or developing some idea and you want to make it perfect? I know there’s been a few times where I find myself obsessing over various details, attempting to reach that lofty pinnacle of perfection. While it’s understood that perfection can be very difficult if not almost impossible to achieve, one factor that we consider less is how it can also be a disadvantage.
Bet I piqued your curiosity with that unusual statement. Allow me now to explain what I mean by it.
Let’s say I was developing a new product line and naturally, I want to create the perfect version of it. So I ask ten people at random what would make this product perfect in their eyes. Invariably, this leads to me getting ten different versions of what I need to do to make this product perfect – not exactly a cost-effective approach. But let’s say I go back to these ten people and ask them instead ‘Based on what the product does right now, what would you say would make it even better?’. In asking this question, I’m sure to get one or two similar answers which if I were to implement as changes to my product, the others who hadn’t suggested it would nonetheless agree were changes that definitely improved my product.
To understand what exactly is going on here, let’s look at another version of this question. In this case, let’s say I asked these ten individuals to describe what they would consider to be a perfect day. I’m sure you can imagine that this would lead to ten different scenarios of what a perfect day would be. But the reason for the diversity in replies to this particular question is actually the same for why I would get ten different ideas for what would make my product perfect. In both cases, the definition of perfection is based not on empirical facts; instead, it’s a reflection of what we’d like to experience.
When we buy a product or service, it’s because we want it to help us solve a problem, offer us some benefit to our lives, provide us with some form of increased social status, or simply entertain us. In other words, what we gain from these products or services, as well as how we choose to use them, helps to define our perception of their value in terms of our needs or wants.
In regards to seeking perfection, what this really means is that what measures/changes we apply to make something perfect might make sense to us based on our experiences. However, the benefits of those changes will only be truly appreciated by those who share a similar experience to our own.
On the other hand, by looking at how we can make things better, our focus moves beyond just our experiences to encompass those others have had, leading to changes that more people can see the benefit and value in making.
In his book “Wind, Sand and Stars”, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote:
Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
While we might perceive perfection as a summit that’s hard to reach, perhaps we should also view it as an ideal that’s difficult to share with others.
So what do you think – can we benefit from the pursuit of seeking perfection? Or is aiming to be better a more productive approach? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.