Perfection in Product
Why perfection can be the enemy of progress.
As a perfectionist, it is naturally hard for me to do something that has any errors. Yet when building products for customers, perfection can lead you to never want to release anything because it is not “good enough.” Here are a few lessons I have learned over the years to balance the desire for perfection with the need to quickly get product in the hands of customers.
Remember the objective
Sometimes we get too focused on perfection as the target instead of achieving a certain goal. I remember as a kid, there was a Nintendo baseball game where the objective was to play the perfect game (bonus points if you know that obscure game). I always thought that was the strangest thing as the objective should have been to win the game/season. Ultimately your product is hired for a job-to-be-done to help customers solve their problem. So remember that problem instead of focusing on the details of a technically perfect UI/screen/algorithm/feature. Even an imperfect solution that helps solve the problem better than the current solutions can be valuable to your customers and help you start building momentum. If you are in the right direction, your early customers will be leaning in, happy, and wanting more.
Focus on what matters
Your product may have many features, but which features should you focus on when building? Focus your efforts on being great at those areas that directly solve the job-to-be-done, even if it means other areas of the product are not perfect or even present at all (yet). If the shade of blue on the sidebar is off, it probably doesn’t matter. Now if the main algorithm gives the wrong answer, or the opening title is spelled incorrectly causing you to lose credibility, those are more likely things to get right. Remember you are solving a problem, and be great at solving that problem in your solution, even if that means leaving other areas of the product not perfect. Be careful falling trap to the “table stakes” game where you think you must have all 20 features that the competitors have. Not everything deserves equal attention.
Build with customers
When building your first version of a product, there are lots of things you want to have. But how do you know what is truly the bare minimum that customers can use and get value? Building with development partners is a great way to have real, paying customers tell you exactly when it is good enough to use on its own … as a bonus, they will also tell you what other features can be built to enhance the value of your product and help you craft your go-to-market strategy. Feedback from paying customers is infinitely more valuable than ideas from a conference room or talking to friends.
Don’t get fooled into perfection as the end goal. Rather, focus on what matters and keep an eye on the bigger prize!