In his recent blog “The non-optimized life” Seth Godin points out that an obsession with optimizing what you already do will make you neglect or forget to create new things, new ways and new angles in life. I get the point but I believe the opposite of this issue is what we are currently suffering from more.
In business in particular, companies try to make us forget sub-optimal products or services by quickly offering new ones containing a new set of flaws. For instance, rather than perfecting Windows XP, an operating system most people were quite content with, Mircosoft tried to convince us that the ultimate fix for all of its remaining imperfections was Vista – we all know how that ended. We don’t need “all new” cars every few years if performance and functionality were the drivers. Why not evolve them, why not gradually push them nearer to perfection rather than throwing out something that really works well for people? Like the Mercedes G, a car that isn’t for everyone but a car that’s been in the market for about 20 years now without boring its customers.
The things, products and services I admire most are those that don’t get replaced by a new creation next week: Nutella, my mechanical watch, a Steinway piano, the pyramids of Giza, a Sacher tart, a Mozart piano concerto. They are pieces of art in varying degrees of industrialization, and they are as perfect as this world will ever be. Perfect in a way that we even forgive minor flaws and accept them as part of the item’s nature. Finding the level of skill and craftsmanship to push something further up into the asymptote that is perfection is, of course, incredibly hard which is why so many people take the easy way out: throw it out and make something new.
My advice: if you are onto something with the potential of being more than “good enough”, if you are a true artist, if what you want is greatness, time spent on perfecting what you do is never wasted.