At the end of every week I like to take a few moments to sit back, pause, and reflect on two or three things I learned that I’d like to implement in my life going forward. Sometimes it is hard to synthesize meaningful takeaways, but I’ve attempted to do so below:
Key Takeaway #1: Go For Progress, Not Perfection
A friend of mine, Derick Thompson, founder of StartupRunner (which is an online incubator that helps equip entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to build profitable businesses) posted a video on his website from Marie Forleo’s, Marie TV show, about why perfectionism can hinder forward progress. In the video, Marie explains how entrepreneurs who endlessly tweak things are either procrastinating or they’re hiding behind fear of failure. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, stated that if you’ve waited to launch your product or service until it’s perfect, than you’re probably too late and the opportunity has passed you by! Marie goes on to say, “Go for progress, not perfection.” Great words of advice.
I remember being guilty of being a perfectionist the day I decided to publish my first blog post. I was so nervous because I wanted it to be perfect. I thought that if I had a typo or two everyone would think I was a moron. But I realized several blog posts later, that people cared less about typos and more about content. This advice is also pertinent for anyone in a leadership position. As a leader, it is important to realize that even though you probably could perform most tasks just as good or better than your subordinates, that doesn’t mean that you should. Effective leaders are good at knowing when ‘good enough’ is ‘good enough’ and that things don’t have to be done absolutely perfectly. Micromanagers find it hard to trust others’ ability to get things done so they usually end up doing things themselves, instead of managing others to do them. The key point here is that perfectionism can be both good and bad, and it is often considered a bad thing when it stunts or inhibits forward progress. Again, aim for progress, not perfection.
Key Takeaway #2: Five is the Magic Number
A really good friend of mine and awesome entrepreneur, Drew Ramsey, recommended a book called Sprint. Sprint was written by a few guys at Google Ventures and in the book, they outline a 5 day process they developed that describes how anyone can create, design, build, and test a new product or service in only 5 days. Day 1 of the sprint is spent mapping out the flow of the process, Day 2 is spent sketching out possible solutions, Day 3 is spent making decisions about which path to take, Day 4 is prototyping, and finally, Day 5 is spent testing with real customers. There were several great takeaways from the book as a whole, but of particular interest to me was their philosophy around customer testing. In the book, they reference Jakob Nielsen and the research he conducted for determining the optimal number of customer interviews to perform in order to spot the most important patterns. Nielsen’s research showed that no matter how many people he interviewed, 85 percent of the problems were observed after interviewing just five people. Testing with more people didn’t lead to many more insights – just a lot more work.* Nielsen stated, “With more tests, the number of findings quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns. There’s little additional benefit to running more than five people through the same study: ROI drops like a stone.”
I personally find this philosophy very interesting because I often wonder how much research is enough especially when I’m advising entrepreneurs on a particular problem they’re having. I can’t say I’m completely against having more data points, but I am starting to rethink my position on this considering that this seems to be working so well for the guys at Google Ventures.
Key Takeaway #3: Listen to Yourself
The last takeaway for the week comes from an encounter I had with one of my angel investors (let’s call him John). On a regular basis, I meet with John to discuss new investment opportunities and also to get advice on different things. In many ways, he’s kind of become a mentor of sorts. This week I was telling him about a few challenges I was facing at work and what I thinking about doing to overcome them. At one point in the conversation, I spent 10 or so minutes describing my strengths and how I could use them to accomplish my long-term goals. Immediately after my palaverous speech, he turned to me and said, “Do you hear yourself? You have just self-affirmed every reason why and how you’re going to overcome this and accomplish your goals.” John went on to say, “Most often, if people listen closely to themselves and take their own advice, they can usually uncover the answers to their own problems.” This word of wisdom isn’t particularly earth shattering, but sometimes even simple statements like this can resonate when they’re spoken at the right time.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you were able to take something good away from the “takeaways” I uncovered this week. Cheers. -KM
*Sourced from Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five Days