The Guarantee
March 26

Be Brave, Not Perfect: The Secret Enemy of Agile Innovation

The pandemic has taught us how to keep moving forward amid chaos. More than ever, global business leaders have been working hard to create the best possible versions of their products, services and organizations. Even now, “good enough” isn’t a phrase in our vocabulary.

The pandemic should also serve as a lesson about when it is time to let go. I want you to eliminate one more word from your vocabulary — “perfect.” There is a fine line between striving for your best product and striving for the perfect product, and if you have crossed into the thorny territory of perfectionism, it can be difficult to find your way back. As Winston Churchill said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Perfection eliminates any opportunities for risk or failing upward, two key components of growth.

If you are waiting for perfection in any area of your business, you will be waiting forever. During this period of extreme uncertainty, I’m asking you to be brave, not perfect.

Avoiding the Perfectionism Plunge

When the pandemic hit, companies reacted to a new normal by rapidly transforming their business models and revenue streams. Businesses have been serving their customers well by finding new ways to create value. Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends Study found that 58 percent of respondents could name a brand that quickly pivoted to better respond to customer needs, and 82 percent of those respondents did more business with that brand as a result.

The fact that this innovation is emerging during a global crisis should not come as a surprise. Historically, crises have always demanded agile innovation, and as a result, many of mankind’s greatest innovations have come out of crises — some of which are in progress right now.

We don’t need to wait for a global crisis to embrace a culture of agile innovation. But to do so, you need to first let go of your desire to be perfect. Agility and perfection don’t mix. If you find yourself missing goals or deadlines because you are obsessing with getting something “just right,” your perfectionism may be getting in the way of your progress.

Of course, letting go of perfectionism in your business is easier said than done. If you are telling yourself one of the following myths, it may be secretly impeding your growth.

Myth #1: Your product or service needs to be perfect because you only have one chance to go to market.

Though commonly believed in business circles, this myth is just that — a myth. In his book “Great By Choice,” Jim Collins makes a case about why waiting for perfection is killing your business through a memorable analogy about bullets and cannonballs.

Collins asks you to imagine that you are at sea, facing a hostile ship, with a limited supply of gunpowder. If you use your gunpowder to fire a big cannonball, you may use up most of your gunpowder and still miss your target. If you instead fire a series of bullets first until you hit your target, then fire a cannonball along the same line of sight, you’ll sink the ship.

In business, this bullets-then-cannonballs analogy illustrates how you should try low-cost experiments to see what appeals to your target audience before investing significant time and resources into a product release.

For example, by releasing a minimum viable product, a version of a new product that allows you to get feedback from real users with little effort, you can quickly learn if your product fulfills its desired purpose. You get real-time feedback to ensure your product release is a smash, and you don’t have to spend months and millions getting it perfect.

Myth #2: Your content needs to be perfect because consumers expect you to be poised and polished.

Actually, studies during the pandemic show that consumers are looking for content that is imperfect and human. This past year hasn’t been easy on anyone, and consumers can see through businesses’ half-hearted attempts to pretend that everything is going perfectly.

The 2020 Edelman Brand Trust Barometer found that 83 percent of respondents wanted brand messaging to show empathy for consumers and 65 percent found comfort in hearing about how brands are responding to the pandemic. Brands that are being courageous with their content by showing vulnerability are earning the trust of new customers, not losing it.

Experts predict that this kind of candid content is here to stay. “We’re all in this together” has been a motto for many of us during this pandemic, but it doesn’t mean much if you aren’t also showing what that means for you. Try answering the following questions in your content: How has the pandemic put pressure on your organization? How did you pivot to take care of customers, clients and employees?

Myth #3: Your decisions need to be perfect because there is no room for failure right now. 

As long as you aren’t making the same mistake twice, you should be embracing failure, especially now. Failing is how you grow. If you have an all-consuming fear of failure, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of analysis-paralysis.

Analysis-paralysis happens when you are so afraid of making the wrong decision that you’re making none at all. For some, this may look like spending too much time researching your options or, for others, it may look like a mistrust of your intuition.

When making a decision, keep reminding yourself why you need to make this decision in the first place, and get comfortable with the inevitable uncertainty that comes from not having all the answers. A wrong decision that you learn from will always be better than a perpetually-procrastinated decision.

If you want to embrace a “be-brave-not-perfect” philosophy in your sales and marketing strategy but don’t know where to start, you might benefit from an outside perspective. Reach out to RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy today, and we can take those courageous first steps together.

Lori Turner-Wilson is founder and CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy. A fast-growing agency of seasoned professionals, RedRover is the only Memphis agency to integrate sales training with marketing strategic planning and execution. RedRover has a uniquely intense focus on achieving measurable results for its clientele, as the only Memphis area agency to offer its clients a results guarantee. The agency’s diverse client roster represents nearly every industry vertical in greater Memphis.

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