Perfectionism is a lifelong habit as addictive as nicotine without the medical side-effects. Perfectionists rethink, rework, and revamp every project never considering any effort complete. We measure all performances by counting their flaws, not their accomplishments. Instead of appreciating a test score for the 95 points earned, we focus on the 5 points that were missed. We require rigid deadlines to pry work from our grasps. Da Vinci said it best, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” For a perfectionist, projects are never complete, only relinquished.
Adaptation builds great products, not perfectionism.
Ferdinand Piech, the grandson of the founder of Porsche Cars, wanted to build the best luxury sedan imaginable. His car was well-received by industry experts and garnered favorable reviews on style and performance. Motor Trend nominated it for, “Car of the Year.” Car and Driver exclaimed it’s, “Everything a Luxury Car Should Be.” It shared the engine, transmission, massaging seats, multimedia infotainment system, and the climate control systems with the Bentley Flying Spur. The car was attractive, comparably priced, and impeccably engineered. It received over 100 patents and met 10 exacting design goals. It could cruise all-day at 180 mph in 120-degree temperatures without exceeding 72-degrees inside. It offered everything necessary to grab a chunk of the luxury sedan market. Yet it failed.
Volkswagen introduced the Phaeton in 2002 but you’ve probably never seen one. It enjoyed only modest success in China, South Korea, and Germany but fell far short of production targets. Failing to usurp market share from the BMW 7-series, the Audi A8, and the Mercedes S-Class, Volkswagen stopped production altogether.
The Phaeton design team thought of everything but the car failed anyway. It had all of the capabilities required for its class. It was attractive. It offered luxury, performance, and comfort. It was well-received by industry influencers. It offered exclusive gadgets and features available in no other car. None of which were enough. No additional planning or engineering would have ensured success.
Planning is essential but perfectionism will not anticipate tomorrow’s needs. Years ago, customers relished the idea of faster internet, cable TV and landline phones. Now, bundling those services is a prison sentence. It constrains customers to buy channels they don’t want at prices they don’t value. Years ago customers wanted hotels with more amenities. Now travelers rent AirBnBs with no room service, no fresh towels, and no chocolates on the pillows.
Create a process that evolves
Success is not solely a function of preparation; successful businesses evolve. As new threats emerge, they compensate. As new opportunities surface, they adjust. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
Amazon started by selling books online and then repurposed its infrastructure for other products. Selling books grew to ebooks and the Kindle. Experience gained from building the kindle became the foundation for the Echo (Alexa), a voice-activated home automation hub. Amazon repurposed extra computer capacity as AWS, “the Cloud” and became the number one vendor in the space.
Anyone who lost a day in a good bookstore will tell you that Amazon is flawed as a book retailer. The ability to skim random pages, read introductions and review dust covers are lost. But that does not matter. Selling books was the starting point in an evolving solution. It wasn’t better. It adapted faster.
Today, Amazon is a juggernaut. It is a globally dominant retailer with strong positions in many markets. It tumbled brick-and-mortar bookstores like Borders and is the number one vendor in Cloud services. Amazon is a retailer, reseller, service provider, technical company and more. It defies categorization because it morphs into something new faster than the ink can dry on a new moniker.
Perfectionism won’t find a straight line from today’s customer needs to tomorrow’s. There is no straight line.
Years ago, no one could have anticipated or planned for the connection between book sales and the Cloud. Don’t try to now. Instead, build products that pivot quickly. Begin with a foundation that garners feedback, adjusts, and repeats. Be prepared to move from books to ebooks, to video, to the Cloud. Don’t plan the company’s path before taking the first step. Create a foundation that can pivot to many of them. Perfectionism won’t find a straight line from today’s customer needs to tomorrow’s. There is no straight line.