Mediocrity. It has spread through industry and society like a plague and it seems that standards are universally low. Hospitals are criticised for hygiene levels that would cause Florence Nightingale to weep, the mantra of manufacturing for the most part appears to be ‘faster, cheaper, more’.
I admit to being an over thinker, borderline perfectionist and habitual tweaker. This blog post will probably take me no more that 20 minutes to write, then I will waste at least an hour laying out the line spacing to my satisfaction.
It seems that perfectionism is all too often subject to negative connotations and bad press, however I am a firm believer that the pursuit of perfection inspires innovation.
But do the perils of perfectionism lead to greater evils than those of mediocrity?
Let’s use Darth Vader as an example.
As we follow his epic journey in search of perfection and power, beginning with his ascent from modest roots as pod racing engineering prodigy to supreme commander of the Galactic Empire, perfectionism could be blamed for Vader’s intolerance of weakness and merciless leadership style. After all, perfectionist dictators have neither time nor inclination to stand for incompetence or mediocrity – particularly in themselves.
Of course this behaviour could also be attributed to stress, only to be expected when working under an authoritarian master with the associated threat of death by Force Lightning.
Either way, Vader displays certain positive traits synonymous with perfectionism that would be not go amiss in a leadership role i.e. his ‘failure is not an option’ attitude, meticulous attention to detail, determination to succeed and propensity for self motivation (fear of grisly death aside).
Steve Jobs is another example of ‘a tyrannical perfectionist’. Obsessed with fine detail Jobs has managed to deliver technology that is near perfect in simplicity and elegance. For many years now, the Steve Jobs perfectionist approach to product development has been an experience enjoyed exclusively by MacHeads. Now we, the lowly PC’s, can also taste this very special flavour of Apple perfection.
Jobs maybe a perfectionist, but he had the vision to move computing away from the stereotypes of spectacled Microsoft geekiness to bring us the sleek, shiny must have gadgets of the uber-cool masses. Apple’s products have de-geekified the love of gadgetry and turned Apple into Silicon Valley’s most valuable company, with Jobs being named by Fortune Magazine as “CEO of the Decade”. Like Vader, his climb to the top has been a tough one, subject to criticism and negative press.
What we can learn from this, is that while perfectionism can drive success, it can also be a lifelong struggle ending in self-sacrifice and death. Admittedly, we have yet to see this kind of weakness in Steve Jobs.
Mediocrity – It takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late. ~ Larry Kersten
Photo by By JD Hancock
( Maybe He Won’t Notice ) under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license