Perfect vs. Perfect

By Steve McKee

The CEO of one of our client companies recently recounted how it took us three rounds of creative execution before we perfected a design approach for his brand. He was not, however, complaining. He was praising the fact that we were willing to spend our time perfecting what everybody knew coming out of the gate was, by definition, imperfect.

Most of us think of the word perfect as an adjective, as in "that campaign is perfect." But the term is also a verb, as in "we should continually strive to perfect our work." Methinks shifting our preference from the former to the latter might prove more profitable over time—especially in this lightning-fast world of marketing.

Consider all the time and energy wasted as clients and agencies pursue someone's idea of perfection before any work is approved. Don't get me wrong – excellence should never be compromised – but even the best idea won't do anybody any good until it sees the light of day. I find myself leaning more and more towards just doing something, and then working to continually optimize – perfect, you might say – our efforts.

It's funny, but every marketing and creative professional I speak with looks back on his or her portfolio somewhat wistfully, realizing with the benefit of hindsight that work they thought was flawless at the time was, in fact, imperfect. Isn't it better to realize that in real time and let the little hatchling develop wings as it flies—even if a bit erratically at first?

That requires faith in our capabilities and a genuine and trusting client-agency relationship, because it ensures that mistakes and missteps will become part of the equation (as if they're not already). But I have an increasing bias towards forward motion; better to learn as you go than to never leave the nest.

Steve McKee

Co-founder and author, Steve specializes in addressing the most meaningful problems. Call Steve when you want to change the world. He’ll have a thought (and some research) on that.

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