Perfectionism vs Productivity

Creatives in advertising usually fall into the category of “perfectionists”, which means they fight for the execution of their ideas to be as close to their vision as possible. That’s really our job, and there’s a whole structure in an ad agency to support that plan of action. Perfectionism gets in the way when it leads to procrastination – one of the types of procrastinators, according to Alina Vrabie in this article, and Joel Brown in this one among others, is the “perfectionist”.

At work, we do have deadlines that trump our will to keep working every little detail to perfection – we have to end up delivering what was asked of us at some point. But the greatest creative leaps in advertising or anywhere else come from proactivity. A perfectionist nature can get in the way of creatives ever completing a project that wasn’t asked of them (either a proactive idea at work or a personal project) because getting every detail perfect becomes overwhelming and we might end up dropping the whole project.

Salvador Dali on perfection
Salvador Dali knew what he was talking about

It’s very easy to hide under the snob cloak of perfection. It makes us feel we can call ourselves creatives without having ever brought an idea to life.

This is a lesson I actually learned outside of advertising. It was a German businessman who taught me one of the most important things a truly creative person should know. What he taught me is the reason you’re reading this blog and the reason I started being creative outside of my day job. I worked freelance for him, creating a visual identity for one of his ventures – which he had many. One day I told him I could never do what he does because I would freak out about having every detail of every venture in perfect order. And this is how he replied:

“To go into business you have to go below your standards.”

– Lothar Hohmann tweet

At first I obviously dismissed the statement as creative heresy. How dare him give life to imperfect things? As a professional creative, I thought that was beneath me. But the more I thought about it, the more it rang true. The more I looked for flaws in his words, the more solid they became. And I finally realized there was no point in trying to discredit the guy. I did not like it, but it was true. I realised I was using my high standards as an excuse for doing nothing.

“…you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.”

– Clay Shirk tweet

The whole point is that to arrive at “great” you have pass through “mediocre”. When you take the leap and start showing the world your imperfect ideas you start to notice the world gives feedback and then you have the chance to improve on your creation.

Remember, the only way to create new, original ideas is to combine things that already exist out there. When you expose you imperfect idea to those things and mash them up, the only thing that can happen is for it to become more and more original.

What do you think of Lothar’s quote? Do you agree? Leve us a comment and share this article.

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