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Brain circuits

The concept you need to rid yourself of today

Published 26 January 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

Here is an exercise for you: Consider you have to write a policy manual for your organization; it involves various groups of diverse stakeholders. Would you rather:

Get it done quickly, with a reasonable amount of buy-in and continue to make small improvements over time.


Wait until it is perfect, even if that means missing a deadline or two.

Be honest with yourself: which is more important to you, getting it done, or getting it right? That’s a false choice. With multiple diverse stakeholders you are unlikely to ever get it “right”.

Perfectionism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

It’s a trap many people fall into because the very idea of something being “perfect” seems like a net positive. But pursuing perfection can be destructive. There is rarely, if ever, one right way to do something. Those who get stuck on perfecting their one way might find themselves less happy or less successful.

Instead of perfection, focus on excellence

Aiming at making a perfect decision might have a terrible return on investment. One way to avoid this trap is to pursue incremental improvements. Develop a solution that is the minimum viable product, roll it out, gather feedback, update your solution. Rinse, repeat.

This approach is not new. It’s an integral part of rapid prototyping, design thinking, agile methods, lean startup techniques, evidence-based management, and other methodologies with more or less buzzy names. It has also proven results, at least in settings where failing is an option.

Aim for perfection and you risk getting nothing. Aim for something adequate instead, and you might just achieve progress. I’ll take implemented adequacy over unrealistic perfection any day.

Further reading: 

Don’t look for perfection, it can be destructive by Arnaud Chevallier



Arnaud Chevallier

Professor of Strategy at IMD

Arnaud Chevallier is Professor of Strategy at IMD, Director of the Global Management Foundations program, and Co-Director of the Complex Problem Solving program. His research, teaching, and consulting on strategic thinking bridges disciplines to provide concrete tools to improve decision making and corporate problem solving. He has written two books: Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving and Solvable: A Simple Solution to Complex Problems, co-authored with Albrecht Enders.


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