The Problem with Perfection

Over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled very much with something that I’ve never really had a problem with before: Perfection.  Let me preface this post by saying that I would not consider myself to be a perfectionist at all.  Whether it’s in my academics or other pursuits, I usually know my own limits and work to the level that I am happy with.  More often than not, that level is NOT perfection.

However, since the beginning of this program, I have been striving for perfection with FlighPin.com, and that is completely WRONG.

Huh? How can striving for perfection in anything be the wrong thing to do?

Well, in everyday life, I’m not sure that there is a problem with striving for perfection.  Sure, some people may struggle with perfectionism or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other issues that rise from needing that constant perfection in their lives, but on the whole, I can’t think of a reason why setting perfection as your goal is wrong.  I can even see the argument that, in most professions, striving for perfection isn’t a bad thing.  Achieving perfection might be the difference between winning and loosing, or signing a client and losing that client.  But, in the world of startups, attempting to achieve perfection is one of the WORST things anyone can do.

So why is perfection such a killer?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  There are many problems with perfection, but one of the largest is that perfection takes TIME.  Time (and, in most cases, money) is something that startups do NOT have enough of.  If you’re waiting to release product because you don’t think it’s perfect yet, you’re either going to lose the interest of your customers or  someone else is going to sweep in and take your marketshare like free samples from Costco on Saturday afternoon.

Also, perfection makes you self conscious.  No matter how many times I try to convince my self otherwise, putting up a product on the web is very revealing.  Your product that (hopefully) millions of eyeballs are seeing is completely your brain child.  Regardless of how incredible it is, someone WILL hate it.  And that person, with all the courage provided by emailing in comments instead of having a face to face conversation, will berate you for making the worst gadget he or she has ever used.  Now, no founder should ever listen to one person’s critique too intensely, but whether or not you have been striving for perfection makes a HUGE difference in how well you shake off negative feedback.  If you know that this product is not the best thing out there but are committed to building something great overtime, you look forward to this kind of feedback to help make your baby better.  However, if you’re convinced from launch that you’ve created the perfect product, hearing that kind of feedback can be devastating.

Finally, the problem with perfection in the pre-launch startup is that you have no idea what perfection is.  Regardless of how smart you are, your customers will, inevitably, want something other than what you initially offer.  As my favorite television doctor puts it, you will always be wrong.  But that’s ok, in fact, that’s great.  Getting feedback that you’re wrong tells you that you’re pushing the bounds enough.  You’re trying new things and, with the help of feedback from everyone who thinks you’re wrong, will eventually create a product that people want.

Where do I stand?

Well, I was definitely striving for perfection with FlightPin.  Over the past month, I have completely scrapped two nearly ready MVPs thinking  that they weren’t the perfect product.  At the end of the month, I realized that I still had just my opinion on what I though was the perfect idea and no real user feedback.  Thus, the MVP I’m finishing up now will be the last I make for FlightPin.  It will be launched, I will collect real user feedback, and I will iterate from there.

It seems, at least to me, that the only way to solve the perfection problem is to further embrace failure.  Look forward to failing because, only when you have a product that someone really doesn’t like, will that person tell you how they really feel.  And only when you know how someone really feels, can you make something that they will love.

-CRV

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