Perfection and the Death of Deadlines

In the 90’s Chiat/Day had a slogan “Good Enough Is Not Enough.” Their mission was delivering excellence.

Today everyone commits to delivering 110%.

Lately, I overheard someone promising to give 150%.

I wondered if they had a Mini-Me stashed around the corner waiting to be unleashed once the deal was done.

The other day during a final round of tweaks, I joked with a client “I’m a perfectionist - ninety five percent!”

Then later, I thought there may be something to it.

The ascent of online media has led to the decline of fixed deadlines and a commensurate growth in deadline creep.

When you can go live with a single click, a day here and there isn’t usually as important as getting it “right”.

But just how can you get it right unless it’s live and interactive?

I’m pretty sure you can’t.

You can guestimate, theorize, opine, second-guess and deconstruct.

But you’ll learn more from a week of real-time, real-space feedback than a year of working without it.

Bounce rates and click-throughs are the only opinions that really count.

Online, “Good Enough” is good enough - at least as a place to start.

Because when you can make changes with a couple of clicks, the temptation is to tinker with things forever.

On the surface this is positive, continual improvement being a holy grail of business, sports, personal development and just about any aspect of modern life.

The flip side is that if nothing’s ever finished, if all work is work in progress, then when and maybe even how do we say: Enough!

Because what we think of as examples of perfection, say the Eiffel Tower or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were both deemed finished at some point.

Someone had the confidence to say: Done!

And after that point changes essentially became impossible.

It’s not like Michelangelo or Gustave Eiffel could say, “I need to tweak it a bit lads, put the scaffold back up.”

There is a school of philosophy that tells us perfection is unattainable.

Even a seemingly perfect snowflake isn’t perfect.

Pop it under an electron microscope and you expose its lack of symmetry.

Another school of philosophy tells us it’s these very imperfections that constitute perfection.

My experience suggests that there is a sort of mirage-like quality to perfection.

The closer you get to it, the more elusive it becomes and the last 5% is the most elusive of all.

If you’re not careful, the quest for it can lead to a type of paralysis.

And most of the time you don’t need it anyway.