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[Hankyung Essay] Innovate by ‘Executing First’ Rather Than Aiming for ‘Perfectionism’

Young Bum Kwon, CEO & Founder of YoungLimWon Soft-Lab

[Hankyung Essay] Innovate by ‘Executing First’ Rather Than Aiming for ‘Perfectionism’

24. January 2024

The pace of change in the world is astounding. Hesitation will inevitably leave you trailing behind. In the realm of software (SW) development, the ‘agile methodology’ prevails. Initially, key features are roughly implemented in new software projects, then refined based on user feedback and further requirements. This approach likely stems from the belief that it can lead to more successful software outcomes.

But this principle doesn’t only apply to software development. When pushing forward with new innovations, it’s common to miss the right moment by prioritizing a perfect plan. This often includes elements that may not be practical to implement, resulting in excessive time spent on planning.

My childhood nickname was ‘Dr. Accident’ due to my curiosity and tendency to tinker, which sometimes led to mishaps or focusing only on the immediate sights.

These days, however, I feel that initiatives don’t progress as swiftly as they once did. “Is it because I’m aging?” I wondered. Yet, looking around, I noticed many unread books purchased to inspire innovation in corporate culture. Perhaps my increased perfectionist tendencies—unwilling to miss out on anything—are to blame.

Many who deem themselves lazy have strong perfectionistic traits. Perfectionists pour excessive energy and time into preparation, which often results in losing momentum when it’s crucial to advance. Their high standards and goals appear incompatible with practical challenges, leading to dissatisfaction and skepticism towards new endeavors.

Tal Ben-Shahar, a professor at Harvard University, argues in his book ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’ that modern unhappiness stems from worries and obsessions with perfection. Chasing perfection, we fail to appreciate our current achievements and lose the joy and meaning found in the process of reaching our goals.

Efficiency in any endeavor requires timeliness. Yet, people frequently concoct excuses to procrastinate. “What if it fails?” or “I’ll start afresh in the New Year,” they say, habitually finding reasons to delay, almost as regularly as one eats meals.

A life filled with postponements is no breeding ground for innovation. I agree with the notion that success is made up of 1% inspiration and 99% effort. Inspiration provides direction but doesn’t detail every step. Perhaps embracing the habit of starting promptly—even if imperfectly—and refining gradually, is a quicker, surer route to success.

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