Almost right is good enough
01 November 2019
This article was featured in the November 2019 issue of the magazine.
Chris Griffiths, founder of OpenGenius and author, argues that getting started is key to making your ideas happen
While the majority of people know that attaining perfection simply isn’t possible, ‘perfectionism’ continues to be a stunting and common trait for many individuals. Though it may sound like a faux-problem, perfectionism can actually be a terrible blocker when it comes to creativity; in serious forms, it can trigger a range of issues from writer’s block to fear of failure. This is because, by its very nature, the perfection being sought after can never be fulfilled.
No noted artist has ever shared work with the world declaring they have achieved something perfect. In fact, contrary to this, it is often the imperfection and flaws which are most widely celebrated in the artistic realm.
Taking this into the workplace arena, trying to create a faultless plan to implement your ideas will likely result in no plan at all. This is why learning to accept both ideas and a strategy that are ‘almost right’ is essential.
Some of the best ideas of recent times probably sounded crazy or impossible when first suggested. When Apple created the iPhone, it went against everything the market was telling them: they designed a phone which was larger, with worse battery life and a bigger price tag than anything else dominating the industry at the time. When the idea was first proposed to create a phone without a keypad – and when this idea resulted in a product with all the aforementioned ostensible issues – a ‘perfect’ standard would have resulted in scrapping this idea and going back to the drawing board. And yet, with innovation and strategy the iPhone has become the most disruptive and transformative mobile phone ever released. This is a classic example of the difference between good ideas, and perfect ones.
...classic example of the difference between good ideas, and perfect ones
While ideas are wonderful in themselves, the next step has to be taken otherwise they lose all value. The ideation process begins with knowledge; you need to read up on the area you’re looking to innovate in, then walk away entirely. Practising focussed daydreaming (http://bit.ly/33idbkT) is not only an important way of uncovering new ideas, it removes the temptation to eliminate the seeds of good concepts just because they are imperfect. To practise this, do something else after you’ve done your reading (e.g. go for a walk or doodle); whatever the activity it should take you away from the subject at hand so your subconscious can work overtime. You’ll soon find fresh and original ideas waiting for you, ready to be refined and actioned so you can turn your daydream into a reality.
To take these ideas from inception to implementation you need to get a wiggle on. If you wait around for perfect conditions and perfect resources, you’ll likely never get started. This isn’t to say you should begin your plan in terrible conditions, just that ‘nearly there’ is enough.
To commence an ‘almost right’ plan, make sure your strategy is agile and adaptable. Inevitably, unexpected things will crop up and your plan needs to be flexible enough to go with the flow. Looking into fostering change management skills (http://bit.ly/2M3xAVe) can assist greatly with this – and will be a valuable skill that will serve you well in all manner of situations.
While a perfectionist may struggle with relinquishing control over their ideas, allowing them to grow in a real-world situation may just let them blossom into something even greater. Nonetheless, having a plan-B that can be rolled out if your original plan doesn’t go as expected is always a good safeguard if you want to keep up speed and learn to roll with the punches.
Overall, it’s key to remember things are ever-changing. Even if you were to uncover an idea or plan that seemed ‘perfect’ at the time, when it comes to implementation that perfection may quickly fade under the strain of unforeseen circumstances. If you’re going into unknown territory – which is likely if your idea is innovative – how can you possibly know beforehand what the ideal plan looks like? By learning to adjust and work under ‘almost right’ circumstances you’re far more likely to get a greater number of ideas off the ground. Perhaps they won’t all work as hoped, but failure is another key element of creative success. So, by actually putting yourself out there and trying your best to keep generating ideas and plans you significantly increase your chances of accomplishment. After all, winners fail more than losers even try. So, stop waiting around for crystal blue skies and still waters, all you need is for the wind to be blowing in the right direction.
Chris Griffiths is co-author of The creative thinking handbook – Your step-by-step guide to problem solving in business (https://amzn.to/324l39B).