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Imperfection influences every result we deliver.

A perfect cross into the penalty area. A smooth product launch. A flawless presentation. No glitches. No deviation from the intended purpose. How often does that happen?

Rarely, if ever, do we actually achieve precisely what we had intended. There are simply too many uncontrollable and unpredictable variables in play that impact the planned outcome.

The environment is too complex to cultivate perfect results, where the deviation between intent and delivery is ZERO.

Success is impossible under these conditions. The rules to accommodate chaos and the unexpected must be re-written.

Significant accomplishments are ALWAYS imperfect and striving for perfection is a waste of time. In fact, imperfection is the key driver.

A score is the consequence of responding to the unexpected with moves that continue to track forward, but morphed by the influence of the surprise.

It is based on minimizing the degrees of imperfection between intent and what has to be settled for. It is recovering from an unplanned blip on the execution radar while maintaining the original sense of purpose.

Adopt these 3 acts of imperfection and you will achieve more success.

1. Change organizational expectations from getting it right to being close enough. If it’s OK to accept a few standard deviations from achieving a flawless solution (on paper), more workable outcomes will be realized, leading to greater employee engagement and a rise in creativity and motivation.

Plan A is never achieved, yet a disproportionate amount of time is spent defining what it looks like.

Instead, transfer the focus to preparing for disappointment and what should be done to recover. Shift the energy away from creating the plan to how it will be executed in the face of unforeseen events – Plans A, B and C will eventually have to be called upon.

2. Appoint more leaders who have a proven track record of achieving amazing imperfect results by inching along and conquering surprises along the way.

Successful leadership is not about the academic pedigree held by the individual. Rather, it’s the proven ability to outdo the unpredictable that gets in the way of anything worthwhile achieving.

Remarkable leaders move their organizations forward regardless of the body blows they are dealt.

3. Start to talk about this more practical definition of success in business schools.

Success is not determined by formulae. Teach that pedagogy is a guide in terms of predicting business outcomes.

Success is not a dependent variable based on a number of finite independent variables that can be assumed.

That’s the point. They CAN’T be assumed. They are NOT precise determinants of the expected outcome.

Teach that the outcome will certainly be different than what the calculations suggest, and that the critical action to take is to welcome the unexpected forces that will determine the concluding destination. Adjust your imperfect plan as you go, based on implementation findings, to a final destination that works in your particular circumstances.

Set the expectation in people that a successful outcome is achieved through a series of messy, “dirty” acts in the trenches, not through having a clinically pristine plan that can’t be flawlessly executed.

Success is achieved by those that practise the art of imperfection better than others, and who understand that success is a practical matter not an intellectual one.


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