When you’re a painter, perfection is whatever you decide it is.
And if enough people agree that you’ve achieved it in expressing yourself, your paintings will come to be regarded as masterpieces. For a musician or composer, standards of perfection are considerably better defined than in painting. (Of course, you don’t have to be as perfect as Mozart was depicted in the movie “Amadeus,” when his patron, the emperor, tells him that one of his compositions has “too many notes,” to which he replies, “There are exactly the right number of notes, sire.”) In either case, however, perfection is something that’s usually determined by audiences – and critics. What seems perfect to you in the way it conveys the artist’s emotions might be perfectly incomprehensible to someone else.
But the art of business is far less ambiguous where perfection –meaning the absolute best of which an enterprise is capable — is concerned. Here, the criteria are a lot more clear-cut — and no matter what it is you’re selling, to fall short in your pursuit of perfection, or to fail to give it everything you’ve got, is to let down both your company and its customers, and is a sure sign that you really don’t care all that much about either.
Striving for perfection – or at least for preeminence—in business takes place on a number of levels. If you’re the one responsible for a brochure or email blast designed to build your brand, do you take pains to make sure the messaging is perfect? If you’re the person in charge of quality control, are you relentless in striving for perfection, or do you just roll with mediocrity or something you know could be better? I hope it’s the former, because that’s the only way great brands are built –with passionate people for whom the pursuit of perfection is an ongoing mission.
This is something I am afraid most brand managers in big companies really don’t understand. Perhaps that’s not their fault, because most brands they work with are older than they are, and inclined to follow the path of least resistance. So how do you instill people who are more worried about meeting their budget or sales forecast than building brand equity with a renewed passion for perfection? I’m not sure that’s possible if they are already into the brand management system that permeates almost all consumer packaged goods.
But for a moment, let’s imagine a world where the entire corporate culture was imbued with a sense of mission, and cared deeply about the pursuit of perfection as it related to everything the brand stood for. Wow! Would a brand with that kind of purpose pollute? Use toxic chemicals? Put cancer-causing ingredients in food? I could go on, but you get the idea.
If major corporations could only recruit people who bring an artist’s passion for perfection to their jobs, and adopt a mission-and-values-driven approach to doing business, it could get us rolling toward the very kinds of solutions we need to bring about a healthier and more sustainable future. Even if only a few of them could see fit to lead by example, you can be sure that the rest would follow – because they’d have no choice And if you’re involved with an established brand or business, you could conceivably be a key player in helping facilitate such a transformation and making your company the standard-bearer for an ambitious new sense of perfection in every aspect of its operations.