Up front: as posts are written in my off-time, this blog is a mixed bag and often features my dog- I learn a lot about the need for respectful communication from him. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn.
I used to have a collection of quotes on the bulletin board in my office, among them “Excellence does not require perfection.” A co-worker read this aloud one day and said crisply, “Yes it does!” As a perfectionist, I had to disagree.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, in light of the start to a new year and the word I’m going to choose as background. Intrigued by Melinda Gates’ approach of choosing a mindset rather than a resolution to guide her through the year, I chose a word for 2017. When I look back over the months, the word really did play a part, even though it wasn’t always at top of mind. For the coming year, I’m going with imperfection.
I’m choosing imperfection because of its potential to improve creativity, collaboration, leadership, and professional relationships. Rather than seeing imperfection as a failure, I’m looking at its elasticity and adaptability. I’m thinking about it in terms of letting go of the need to be in control, which can stall, rather than inspire work. I’m imagining imperfection as an opening.
Imperfection in creativity allows the invention of anything, which you might initially see as junk. From this junk the pieces of great things can be shaped. You don’t have to start at the finish you have in mind, but can begin with pieces that sharpen and firm up as you work. This applies to writing, creating a conference, an ad campaign, or a collaborative partnership.
Collaboration itself may not be exactly as you imagined it. Even while shaping your shared terms of reference and working relationship, a collaboration develops in ways you don’t always expect. It can lead to discover great strengths, and can equally lead to discovering vulnerabilities in the collaboration. What is working? What isn’t? What is the best shaped plan to work together to reach goals? Being open to imperfection can help refine, change and adapt as needed. It requires the ability to admit if you are wrong. It requires a true interest in collaboration for shared success, and not just your own.
The more I read about good leadership, the more I think imperfection and humility play significant roles. Strong leaders have to be willing to listen, to examine how their choices are moving their team in positive ways, and where they may be letting down their team too- imperfection front and centre. A good leader is willing to learn.
The process of bringing a vision to its realization is a process of discovery, which can include things you didn’t expect. Embracing imperfection allows learning that might otherwise be shrugged off. I’m keen to learn what that could open for me this year.
Image: In the end, the puzzle was missing one piece. 87/365 in 365 Day Challenge.