More Doing Leads to Better Work

Why perfectionism won’t help you produce better work

Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash

Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, has carried out an experiment with his photography class. He divided the class into two groups. A “quantity” group, and the “quality” group. The grade of students in the “quantity” group depended on how many photos they submitted in a semester. 100 photos were considered an A with gradual decreases in grading the fewer photos they submitted. The “quality” group was graded on just one submission. The better the picture, the better the grade. At the end of the semester, Uelsmann reviewed all photos and noticed that all the best pictures in class were not produced by the “quality” group, but by the “quantity” group — a stunning finding.

Contrary to the intuitive belief that perfectionism is what produces great work, deliberate practice plays a much bigger role in the quality of creative work. As Seth Godin points out: “The magic of the creative process is that there is no magic. Start where you are. Don’t stop.”. It’s not about spending countless hours perfecting our craft. Much rather, it is about creating something over and over and over again. Trying something new. Relieved from any pressure to produce something “great”. Completely in the moment and genuinely trying new things. That’s what distinguishes good artists from great artists.

Interestingly, the same holds true in the world of entrepreneurship. Common advice among successful (tech) startup founders is to “ship quickly, ship often”. Building momentum in the initial phase is more important than the direction. You need to iterate quickly over your product and assumption concerning your business.

So what we can take away from this is that more preparation doesn’t yield better work. More doing leads to better work. And this is exactly the mindset we need to adopt if we attempt to create something meaningful in our world.

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