Why do some organizations repel creative talent? Blame the “perfectionist”

Good Now is better than Perfect Later

A perfectionist mentality often manifests in over-analysis and analysis paralysis, making it difficult for creative teams to move forward and innovate; it can stifle progress and derail momentum, in particular when it comes to creative work and marketing.

While the pursuit of perfectionism can be a positive attribute in certain professions that require precision, such as healthcare, accounting, and engineering, it poisons the creative process and can repel creative talent.

Identifying the perfectionist

Perfectionists can be long-winded and use big lingo that confuses their audience, leaving them feeling uncertain about what they are supposed to do and clouding simple, concise messaging.

Perfectionists can also struggle with trusting others and recognizing creativity in others, leading to morale and momentum killers for the team.

Research supports the idea that perfectionism kills creativity and may be coupled with OCD. Both are rooted in insecurity and a fear of the unfamiliar. Rather than surrender to what they don’t know, perfectionists try to control the situation, hindering the creativity of their team and making execution sometimes impossible.

Dr. Shauna L. Clingempeel, in her 2018 article “Perfectionism and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Review and Clinical Implications,” cites research that suggests perfectionism is a common trait among individuals with OCD — individuals with OCD may become preoccupied with meeting unrealistic standards and avoiding mistakes.

Perfectionists repel creative talent

To attract and retain creative talent, organizations need to commit to a culture that values and prioritizes creativity. Allowing a perfectionist to comment on the creative team can be a morale and momentum killer. It can repel creative talent and hinder the ability to attract and retain the best creatives, storytellers, artists, and marketers.

Some organizations repel creative talent due to a lack of support for creative ideas. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as a lack of resources for creative projects or a lack of recognition for creative contributions — leading to frustration and demotivation for creative employees.

Good now is better than perfect later

Some of the best creatives, storytellers, artists, and marketers recognize the paradox of perfectionism and prioritize good over perfect; this does not mean delivering bad or mediocre work.

It’s important to embrace a growth mindset, recognizing that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth.

“A good plan today is better than a perfect one tomorrow.”

General George Patton

By prioritizing good over perfect and embracing a growth mindset, organizations can create a culture that fosters creativity, innovation, and progress.

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.”

Greg McKeown, Author, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By recognizing the negative impact of perfectionism on creativity and progress, organizations can create a more positive and productive work environment for all.

How to attract and keep creative talent

If an organization wants to attract and retain creative talent, it must identify the perfectionists and avoid including them on teams that require creativity.

While perfectionism has its place in certain professions, it can hinder creativity and progress in creative work and marketing. Organizations should prioritize delivering good work over perfect work and recognize the value of progress over perfection. By doing so, they can foster a more innovative and creative environment that encourages progress and growth.

The alternative, repelling creative talent, and an organization that will struggle with innovation and creative marketing. And all outcomes that rely on creativity: UX, design, concise messaging, social media, and video.

Red flags: Beware of finance people, including the CFO, legal, and sales; these roles typically do not understand the creative process. While their input is important when crafting messages, feedback while getting to completion should be limited.

Where is perfectionism best?

There are some professions where perfectionism is best and should be preserved:

  1. Healthcare: Healthcare professionals, such as surgeons, nurses, and pharmacists, are required to have a high level of precision in their work to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients.
  2. Law: Lawyers are often expected to pay attention to even the smallest details in contracts and legal documents and must present cases with a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail.
  3. Accounting: Accountants are responsible for managing financial records and ensuring that they are accurate and compliant with regulations.
  4. Engineering: Engineers must ensure that their designs are precise and meet exacting standards, particularly in fields such as aerospace and civil engineering.
  5. Architecture: Architects must pay close attention to detail in order to create plans and designs that are structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

The Double-Edged Sword of Perfectionism

Perfectionism isn’t universally good or bad; rather, it’s a tool that needs to be applied judiciously depending on the context. While precision and attention to detail may be a necessity in healthcare, law, or engineering, in the realm of creativity and innovation, perfectionism often acts as a proverbial millstone, dragging down the potential for growth and exploration.

If creativity and innovation are priorities, then a meticulous critique that verges on nitpicking will only serve to alienate the very talent you seek to attract. Creative minds thrive in environments where risks are welcomed, and failures are seen as stepping stones to mastery, not as a life sentence of incompetence.

Watch out for the red flags

Finance, legal, and sales may inherently attract perfectionists. While these roles require precision and thoroughness, it’s crucial that such perspectives do not bleed into the areas where creativity must flourish. Organizations must erect suitable boundaries between divergent working styles to ensure each can thrive in its own ecosystem.

“A good plan today is better than a perfect one tomorrow.”

General George Patton

In our pursuit for excellence, let us not forget that perfection is not the end but a barrier to something far more valuable: creative growth and innovation.

In the creative world, perfectionism is not just the enemy of good; it’s the enemy of everything better that lies on the other side of good. So, give your team the freedom to err, to explore, and to exceed expectations, not just meet them. In return you create an organization that is a beacon for creativity, innovation, and progress.

Subscription Form (#5)

More episodes

Would you like to get in touch?

Contact us today!