The B.S. of “Done is better than perfect”
This is an edited transcript of Episode 005 of Design, In Confidence, mindfulness & design podcast with Stefano Bellucci Sessa’s learnings on creative confidence, emotional intelligence, and mental health.
Good enough… for “what”?
I believe that most of my drawings are bad. Especially those made quickly during workshops. Even if people are mind blown by them, I can hear a voice in my head that says
It’s not good enough.
As mentioned in episode one, mindfulness helps me identify what makes me feel this way: my perfectionism, society’s expectations, the need for a sense of accomplishment.
But here, I’ll talk about accepting & understanding what good enough is.
We often focus on the word “good” – in opposition to “great” or “perfect”.
But the key word is “enough”.
If you feel you get stuck in your process, trying to make it perfect or taking too many risks, keep reading to find out what I wish I knew earlier.
“Bad” and “perfect” aren’t good enough
I’m sharing this, because I know I’m not the only one.
I saw many paralyzing – getting stuck on the potential risks of a project, trying to achieve perfection.
But I’ve seen problems on the other side of the spectrum too.
People lowering the standards of ‘good enough’ because “done is better than perfect”.
That’s why it’s important to clarify what good enough is.
Good enough doesn’t mean contenting yourself with something incomplete, not functional and not sustainable.
And then, move to something else.
Good enough means contenting yourself with something complete and functional “enough” to be sustainable and impactful in the short term.
And then, come back to it to improve it.
“Making things good enough” means allowing yourself to assume it’s good enough. If then you don’t validate those assumptions, you are not doing ‘good enough’ – you are doing a bad job.
So, “good enough” for what?
Let’s look in detail now, how ‘good enough’ means mindfully accepting and controlling:
- enough progress
- enough impact
- enough knowledge
- enough resources
Good enough to move forward.
You need to start somewhere – that happens by bringing to life the abstract idea in your head. With a sentence, a drawing, or whatever.
It might look worse than you imagined. And that’s ok.
Something might be realistic and perfect in your head, but not once to life.
That always happens to me because of either:
- my inability to execute my idea.
(e.g. drawing badly what I imagined)
- some feasibility compromises
(e.g. I imagined unrealistic budget, technology, or other resources)
- something missing
The more you see an idea coming to life (and get others’ points of view and feedback), the more you will see new imperfections and unknowns.
Those are areas of improvement and exploration.
Accept those without judgment. Let your imagined idea go.
Focus on the present.
What you had in mind is the past. Its potential in the future. What you’ve just created is in the present.
And that’s good enough to move forward.
It’s enough to make others understand it and experience it – so you can collaborate and get feedback.
And that’s good enough to observe its impact.
Good enough to impact
My badly executed drawings are anyway ‘good enough’ to be shown to others (colleagues, stakeholders, and users) and hear what they feel, do, and think about it.
And that’s the same for the first versions of an app or business.
I don’t have a legal team to advise me whether I can mention a company name, but… it’s good enough for me to say that:
“A UK fintech startup” disrupted the financial market by creating an app that simplified bill splitting. It was a game-changer for many.
But also, started to generate revenues for the “UK fintech startup”.
It’d not have happened if they thought:
“Our big idea is to build a bank – we can’t start with only splitting bills”.
Today they are a bank.
Building on something that was good enough to move forward, impact and also learn new things on how to build a bank.
Let’s look at that more in detail.
Good enough to learn
The “UK fintech startup” impacted enough to:
- learn from more experts hired
- learn from their community of early adopters on why they were good enough and how to be better.
Also, designing is a learning process.
Instead of taking many years to build the perfect bank, they increasingly build it with many and short end-to-end processes. This created more opportunities to learn how to work better together.
Learn by progressing quickly and often enough and asking yourself everytime:
What did I do well? How can I do better next time?
Design your confidence by learning step by step.
Doing something for the first time is scary.
Change is scary. It’s normal.
Especially if you would like to make a big perfect leap.
Break it down into smaller steps, good enough to move forward, impact, and learn if you are going in the right direction.
Take a small step good enough with the resources, and confidence, you have.
Good enough with what you’ve got.
Accept and acknowledge that resources are limited.
With resources I mean:
- your learnings
- number of customers
- trust from stakeholders
Resourcefulness means accepting and controlling your limited resources so you can make the best out of them – for something good enough to gather more.
Not accepting limitations means stretching resources – taking risks and wasting resources we have. Stretching them brings to a bad work-life balance or stressful management or leadership.
Risks and resources are different in every situation.
They might differ for the size and maturity of the business, the type of industry, or the phase of the process.
For example, while drawing during a workshop, I have limited time, but the expectations are low (nobody expects the 16th chapel), and my agency to gather feedback and iterate is high.
When I work with startups, I have limited customers and budget, but the stake is lower than a project with big organizations – with more money, more customers, but also higher reputational risks.
Confidence is your main resource, guiding your decision of risking the resources you have.
Stretching your confidence means taking the risk of making things worse.
Good enough to NOT make things worse
You might say:
It’s easy for you: in my workplace, things NEED to be perfect.
And my reply is:
Are you building a space rocket or performing a heart surgery?
If not, and you feel that way, probably you (or your boss) need to relax a bit, by defining first what the risks and the worst-case scenario are.
And if you are doing something similar to space rockets or performing heart surgery…
Are you REALLY doing something that dangerous, without trying with something easier, good enough to learn and build your confidence?
If yes, probably you’re taking too many risks.
No astronaut launches the rockets with their fingers crossed.
– Chris Hadfield
Astronauts don’t suddenly fly a rocket.
They do something “good enough” first – like shadowing others, simulating, flying easier aircraft.
Space agencies don’t have (yet) the confidence to colonize other planets.
Sending a rocket to the International Space Station or the Moon is just good enough to learn how to.
They are building their confidence – so they won’t have their fingers crossed in their first interplanetary flight.
As it was at the first Gemini Missions – doing their 💩 in a bag was “good enough”.
Good enough is not about making something imperfect.
It’s about managing risks while using limited resources.
“Good enough” means using our creative confidence (of taking enough risks and using enough resources) to make something that moves us forward enough to impact and learn.
So that we design the confidence needed next time.
So ask yourself:
How can I design my confidence by doing something that is good enough to move forward, learn, check if I’m going into direction?
And let me know how it goes.
Also, let me know if this blog was good enough for you.
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And now, it’s time to listen to your thoughts.
And remember to thank yourself, for the time you spent to learn, and grow.