Done is better than perfect (or, How I learned to embrace imperfection)

Ashley Kodak Leadership

I’ll never forget the first time I heard this philosophy. I had joined inVision not a few weeks earlier and we were in a team meeting discussing the development of a new product. After much discussion and wordsmithing and getting into the weeds of detail, Wendy Ferris, Partner at inVision, said “Done is better than perfect, guys”. It was a mind-blowing moment for me (an “aha moment”, as Oprah would say). I would later come to learn that this quote is a well-known phrase from the Facebook offices; to me, it was a profound statement that turned the way I approached everything up to this point on its head. I was in a new job at a new company, and I knew at that moment it was going to be unlike anywhere I had ever worked before.

Done is better than perfect - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB CanadaI should preface this by sharing that I am a high “C”. For those not familiar with DISC assessments, that means I tend to be accurate, precise, and detail-oriented. I’m analytical, systematic, and I do a lot of research before I make a decision. Admittedly, I have been known to dwell on sentence structure and colour-matching. To hear that “done is better than perfect” meant that I had to start letting go of the details that could slow me down and prevent me from satisfactorily finishing a project. I had to be happy with getting it as close to perfect as I could and forfeit getting it to “perfect”.

Now, there is a caveat to this. As Ben Barry, a designer at Facebook, has pointed out “That doesn’t mean making crap – I believe you should always strive for the highest quality you can – but you have to finish.” Make no mistake, I’m big on quality. But I like the feeling of a job well done even more.

And so began my journey to change the way I work — and it has been a journey. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to reach perfect – obsessing over details in copy, visuals, etc. But at some point you realize that it’s more efficient to get the project to the best it has be instead of to perfection. Often, the time it takes to go from “good” to “great” is time that is better spent on moving another project forward.

“Done is better than perfect” has been embraced around the inVision offices and it has served us well. It has taken the pressure off to produce the “perfect” marketing materials or the “perfect” reports, yet we’re doing great things every day, pushing the yard stick and accomplishing remarkable things. For me, I’m still learning. I often remind myself that done is better than perfect when I feel like I’m getting caught in the trap again, obsessing over minor details that are inconsequential. I’ve realized that when you’re working on projects that challenge and stimulate you, perfect is not the goal – learning is.