I was grappling for a couple of days about whether this was a topic I ought to blog about. It was a new favorite podcast called “Hack The Entrepreneur” that helped sway me. In particular, a recent episode called Done Is Better Than Perfect w/ Farideh Ceaser helped remove my reservations.
My reluctance stems from being recently “passed on” by an agency’s in-house team to help build the New York office’s capabilities. Typically, I would refrain from blogging about a failure.
Except this wasn’t my failure. It was theirs. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re a perfectionist? Here’s why we aren’t a good fit.
The team, evidently tasked with looking at my code to “find something wrong”, seized on my use in my portfolio site of an HTML technique called image maps. My portfolio site www.dempseystudio.com is my testbed, and has been for nearly twenty years. If you don’t know what image maps are and why you should avoid them, visit this blog. It was cited as an example of employing a “not modern” web technique. This is the part where it becomes laughable: one of the developers on the phone screen has an online portfolio built in Flash, which you probably know is not supported on iOS devices. A developer tasked with checking that I dotted my “i’s” and crossed my “t’s” was hired last month, yet for me to see his work I needed to put down my tablet and get to a desktop PC with Flash installed. I could not consume his content anywhere I liked – I had to go to the device that supported Flash.
And this is where two weeks of phone screens fell apart and I started engaging other prospects after “placing all bets off”. Perfectionism is a crutch, and an impractical one. The guest on Hack The Entrepreneur states it best: “Done is better than perfect“. One of the highlights of the podcast episode is when Farideh says she leaves typographical errors on her public-facing website on purpose, to weed out the prospects who might call it out – thus being a poor fit. For the record I don’t really agree with this at the start of on-boarding clients, but it seems very attractive at the point when you can afford to be selective.
To be clear this isn’t so much about doing good work, being thorough, etc. They comprise the work ethic I pride myself on, but a background in design teaches risk-taking, creative options, and sometimes blue-sky approaches. These pursuits and perfectionism are mutually exclusive.
AAA video games with huge budgets always land on day-and-date of release with an update from the publisher. Hundreds of people work on these games and the publishers ship them without all the bugs squashed. They have a deadline to get the content on store shelves, you see.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you are of the mindset of finding the perfect candidate (or partner, or deliverable) then we probably should not work together. There needs to be a focus on the big picture, the whole package and the deadline. One of my favorite quotes that I either made up or tweaked from an existing quote I heard around the time of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is:
“Don’t fixate too much on the graphics on the ball, or the texture of the vinyl cover of the ball. Concentrate instead on the goal way down the field.”