How Stimulus Saved a Perfectionist

Ryan Ramsdale Innovation

Admitting to a control problem is a hard thing to do. Releasing the perceived power of the outcome and experiencing the humility of saying “I don’t know the answer to this problem” is a significant moment in the growth journey of a perfectionist. I would know, this is my journey.

While being identified as a perfectionist can be associated with someone who has a handle on the details, someone who delivers a quality product every time, a perfectionist is actually not a positive label nor is it a positive experience. It’s more like an internal wrestling match with no evident winner. Often the obsession with details that comes with this analytical style presents challenges for an individual to move forward. One can spend too much time obsessing over the details of a problem and never arrive at a point of satisfaction. When action is taken and failure is the result, their inward unmet standard haunts them with thoughts of insufficiency and unhealthy comparisons.

Another challenge associated with perfectionism is the tendency for these individuals to come across as critical and skeptical. In their pursuit of definitive answers these folks tend to question everything, they are often very verbal and express whatever comes to mind, often without considering how it occurs to others. What feels like investigative prudence to a perfectionist looks like untrusting skepticism to others.

In Innovation Engineering, Stimulus is used to help individuals generate ideas. It’s the input side of the brain in the idea equation. If we just sit down and start trying to squeeze out ideas, we just end up regurgitating previous ideas and dump out what is already in our mind. But if we add in stimulus first, we fill the mind and allow it to work through information, often sparking a new, original or unexpected concept.

In the process of “Stimulus mining,” familiar, unfamiliar and unrelated topics are introduced and researched in short bursts. This can seem like a nightmare to the perfectionist who may depend highly on traditional, linear learning structures to acquire information. My experience was powerful; the process of stimulus mining challenged me to let go, not try to anticipate the outcome or have the right answer, but to trust the process. It is actually quite liberating to know that the answer comes from outside of you and that you just play a part in seeking and interpreting it.

-Ryan Ramsdale