Issue 5 of The Science of Creativity
You know what I'm sick of?
People celebrating perfectionism.
First of all, because it's annoying. But more importantly because of the message it sends.
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and former CEO of Apple is famous for his focus on details and his manic outbursts when people couldn't meet his standards. He once said, "you should all hate each other" to the team behind Apple's failed cloud service MobileMe. The service was, in all honesty, terrible, but I doubt that Jobs's insults made the team more motivated to fix it.
A culture of perfectionism is a culture that signals that the only way to do something is by doing it flawlessly right from the start, which I believe is impossible. If you examine groundbreaking inventions, it is fair to say that they are all a result of trial and error. Did you know that Instagram started as a check-in app called Burbn? The app didn't get a lot of traction but besides a hundred users who really enjoyed the apps photo-feature (you could add a photo to your check-in). The founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided to focus on photos, but the app didn't "take off". In a conversation with one of their users, the found out that she didn't want to take photos because she couldn't take nice ones. She pointed to a friend who took really beautiful pictures. Systrom and Krieger noticed that this person were using filters, so they decided to add filters. And the rest is history...
It is also fair to say that most innovations are a result of a collaborative effort that has included many many rounds of feedback.
Perfectionism could be divided into three different categories:
Self-oriented which is when you put too much pressure on yourself to do things in a perfect way;
Socially-prescribed which is when we believe that the world around us has unreasonably high demands on us;
Other-oriented which is when we have high demands on others and want people around us to live up to unreasonably high standards.
Creating a creative climate often means that we need to lower the bar - not to raise it, for ourselves and for others when it comes to ideas. A half-baked idea is always better than no idea because it can work as a spark, something for people to riff on.
Time to self-reflect
Look at the three different categories of perfectionism. Which one are you most familiar with? Could you think about one time when perfectionism prevented you from being creative?