On Wednesday, March 23rd, Microsoft launched Tay, an artificial intelligence chat bot for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the launch turned disastrous just a few hours later as Tay started to make anti-Semitic comments. Microsoft says this was the result of a “deliberate campaign” by Twitter users to prompt the bot into giving offensive responses. Clearly all the bugs were not worked out, so should Microsoft have launched the product so soon? The story offers a great business lesson about aiming for perfection– but probably not the lesson you have in mind.
When I read the article, it was clear that the AI Twitter profile didn’t work out so well – due to evil folks feeding bad information. However, I’m happy that Microsoft launched it because it provides an excellent lesson for smart hustlers – you don’t have to wait for something be perfect before you launch it.
The problem is that perfectionism can stop your progress. I’ve encountered so many businesses owners who don’t do video because they’re afraid it won’t look right or that it won’t be perfect. Other business owners are afraid to become active on Twitter because they think they’ll “do it wrong.”
If you’re doing business the same way you’ve always done and are not willing to experiment and try new things, then you’ll never grow. The willingness to take risks and to experiment is what separates the mediocre from the extraordinary.
I realize that the Tay example is a little extreme, but I stand behind the belief that perfectionism can hurt your small business. Here’s why.
5 Reasons to Stop Aiming For Perfect In Your Small Business
1. Perfectionism means wasted time (and therefore, money). If you’re looking for everything to be perfect, it will take you much longer to complete tasks. You’ll also waste time by revisiting work that is already complete. Sure you can tweak and tweak, but are those minor changes (which no one will likely notice) worth all the extra time you are spending? Small business owners should strive for excellence but not stress about whether every detail is perfect.
2. Perfectionism can halt your progress. Speaking about all that extra time you are spending – couldn’t it be better used elsewhere? If you add up all the hours you spend nit-picking in the course of the week, you could be making huge strides in other areas of your business – marketing, sales, operations, etc. Small business owners have to manage their time well, and that means knowing when to turn away from a project and move on to something else.
3. Perfectionism can lower employee morale. Perfectionists typically demand perfection not only of themselves but also of those around them. Yes, you want your employees to turn in excellent, high-quality work, but browbeating over tiny details will make them feel like they can’t succeed and live up to your expectations. As a result, you will likely experience high employee turnover.
4. Perfectionism can make you a know-it-all. The perfectionist tends to feel like they need to have all of the answers; however, the greatest leaders know that it’s not about having all of the right answers but rather knowing where to find them. Whereas perfectionists need to know everything and make all of the decisions, non-perfectionists can leverage the knowledge and skills of their team members to find success.
5. Perfectionism can make you slow to evolve. We live in a fast-paced environment, and those who are the most successful are those who can adapt, experiment and take risks. Perfectionists often spend too much time thinking about problems instead of thinking and acting quickly. Flexibility and adaptability are important small business traits which perfectionists tend to lack.
Perfectionism can be a hard habit to break, but you can overcome it by:
- Remembering that “done” is better than perfect.
- Striving for excellence without stressing about all of the minor details.
- Trusting your team and delegating tasks.
- Developing a healthy work-life balance.
In the end, if Microsoft had let perfectionism get in the way, they wouldn’t have released Tay when they did. This would have avoided the launch day problems – but how long would perfectionism have stalled the project? We wouldn’t be talking about it right now (great marketing buzz) and another company may have beat them to the punch. Smart hustling is about finding the right time for your launch but not letting perfectionism hold you back from progress. Be smart, but don’t wait for perfect.