A few weeks ago, as our team at percolab was being interviewed by a reporter, I blurted something out. A kinda funny little something that I would normally forget as soon as it came out of my mouth. Weeks later, my off-the-cuff remark is still rankling me.
We were talking about percolab’s agile approach to working with organizations, a tangent to the main question “What exactly does percolab do?” (Hmmm….how much time do you have?), when the discussion veered deeper into how challenging it is for both individuals and organizations to take risks, even really small ones.
Taking risks is scary. Many of us carry a metric of perfection that dictates if something is worth doing it must be done perfectly – or at least extremely well. When I consider a new task I calculate the effort it will take for me to accomplish it to the highest possible standard. If I don’t feel like I can put in that full effort right away I try to schedule it in for another day – assuming, of course, that this particular day will be more amenable to this task. The predictable result is that my to-do list is typically quite long and I often feel weighed down by standards that absolutely no one is holding me to but myself.
The issue here is not one of productivity or efficiency, nor one of quality. As I carry around the limiting belief that the work I do must be perfect, I am robbing myself of the most important and pleasurable aspects of working: the opportunity to learn, and the possibility of learning with others.
For instance, I take notes in meetings: what I’m hearing, what I think, new ideas, related tasks, connections to other concepts, things to consider, big picture thinking, that kinda thing. My notes aren’t perfect. They range from insipid to insightful, and they may or may not prove to be useful. But here’s the thing: if they stay in my notebook or laptop their possible usefulness is moot. I often think of sharing my notes with others but my metric of perfection tells me that these notes need to be edited, properly researched and annotated, massaged into complete sentences, and then made pretty. Very, very rarely (ever?) have I managed to meet this standard, more often than I would like to admit, I simply don’t get around to sharing my notes. So there they sit, depreciating by the day. The impact? My focus on making ’em pretty detracts from the ideas in my notes and the possible learning they could provide me should I actually share said ideas and interact with others over their content. On the other hand, not sharing my notes is relatively risk-free.
Recently, I’ve been trying to override my metric of perfection. Now, after a meeting I’ll read over my notes, correct any typos, do a quick spell check, delete anything irrelevant, take a deep breath, take a risk, and press send. Just like that: quick and dirty.
As we talked to the reporter about how percolab accompanies organizations through change, Samantha elaborated on the beautiful challenge we face of creating a space where people feel comfortable enough to do imperfect things so that they (we) may learn: to experiment, to draft, to model, to prototype, to play. We hasten a process of production along (that often gets bogged down by perfectionist tendencies) to get to the learning it contains. We learn about the soundness of our ideas this way. Sometimes it’s just about getting it done.
“Quick and dirty,” I quipped to the reporter.
“Easy and light,” Samantha said in the same breath.
I laughed at my rougher take on the same idea. But a discomfort caused by the gaping difference in how we each expressed the same idea stayed with me for the rest of the interview. It stayed all the next day too. Weeks later that discomfort is still rattling around my brain.
Doing things “quick and dirty” has liberated me from (some of) my perfectionist tendencies. But it is also an excuse in and of itself. If something is quick and dirty it absolves me from the risk of it not being good enough by ranking pretty low on the metric of perfection. Quick and dirty implies no effort.
“Easy and light” is an entirely new paradigm. It is effortless. Easy and light emerges from creativity and inspiration. Easy and light doesn’t even acknowledge the notion of perfection. Something that is easy and light, simply is. It is something that we use to gain learning and wisdom. There is no expectation of anything more.
So should you ever happen to find yourself in a meeting with me and would like to see my notes: just ask. I will happily send them to you so that we may learn together.
Easy and light. Just like that.
Secteurs d'activités : Coopération | Professionnel
Méthodes et outils :