Quantity trumps quality (at first)

Ceramic pots

I found the following excerpt on Derek Siver’s blog. It’s from a book called Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would begraded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

This story perfectly articulates  one of the fundamental Lean UX principles: prioritize making over analysis. Instead of sitting around, debating ad nauseum which direction to go in, what features make sense, which colors perfectly reflect your brand values or which words will get your customers to convert, just make something. It won’t be perfect. It won’t work as well as you’d hoped at first but it will teach you something. You’ll get some feedback, some insight on how building your product can be better and you’ll do a better job the second time around.

Sitting around in meetings debating these things usually means one thing: you don’t have enough information to make those decisions. And guess what? That information is not going to magically appear the longer the meeting goes on. Instead, take a first stab. Make the call and give it a shot. Even if it fails thoroughly, you’ll still learn something.

How many pots will you make this week?

[Jeff]

About Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf is a lean thinking and design evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making. Jeff is an author, speaker and thought leader on the future of product development and design, often teaching workshops or giving talks on building cultures that support teamwork and innovation. Jeff co-founded Neo Innovation, a lean/agile product firm in NYC. Prior to that, he led the UX design teams at TheLadders and Web Trends. Earlier he worked with and led small teams of software designers at AOL. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience and the upcoming (Harvard, 2016) Sense and Respond (sensingbook.com).
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  • headhunter212

    nice post Jeff. I use the same example with my sales reps, especially the individuals with “call reluctance”. Perfectionism is a form of paralysis through analysis, where little is accomplished and nobody learns.

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