Perfectionists Need Not Apply
My kids loved it when I told them stories about myself. One of their favorites was about the time I made the family recipe for chocolate cake, which called for a cup of coffee. Instead of a cup of brewed coffee, my 12-year-old self cheerfully threw in a cup of ground coffee. I ended up with a product better suited to paving a driveway than enjoying for dessert. That and other stories prompted them to ask me why, in all of my stories, I told them about times I made mistakes. I told them the truth: stories where I was smart and perfect just aren’t as funny.
The concepts that the anecdote above contains – storytelling, learning, perfection, and imperfection – have been on my mind a great deal. Everyone is talking about storytelling lately. It is now a universally acknowledged truth that storytelling is the best way to put ideas into the world, and one of the best ways to learn. And in our business – the business of ideas – effective storytelling is mother’s milk.
There’s a deep connection between storytelling and the idea of perfection. The Nigerian writer Ben Okri put it best: “The fact of storytelling hints at fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.”
If great stories come from imperfection, great storytellers are, of necessity, imperfect. At gyro, we celebrate the unconventional and the quirky. And we don’t just mean the ideas and stories. We mean the people. It takes unusual people to create the stories for brands and businesses.
It is the strivers, the strugglers, the funky and the flawed who create healthy friction, who challenge norms, who push boundaries and who do not accept the status quo. There’s a reason that a wall in every gyro office is emblazoned with the legend “no creative apartheid.” You cannot put people into neat and tidy boxes, and you certainly don’t want to hire people who want to live in those boxes. The people who thrive in creative environments are restless, hungry, and comfortable with change and risk.
Everyone arrives at their jobs via a different pathway, and everyone develops at their own rate. There is no one way to succeed.
It’s easy for any leader to say that they encourage individuality. But to do so means you accept the idiosyncratic nature of each individual. To succeed is about not only accepting them, it is also about celebrating them. Taking it a step further: put those imperfections to work.
Throughout our organization, there are countless initiatives underway – we think of them as experiments. Each is an attempt to better something, to create something more perfect. Some are outward facing, and relate to the work we do for our clients and how we can improve. Some are inward facing, and relate to how we work with each other, and how we can improve. The best part of these experiments is that many have been initiated by our staff – not management – to create a more perfect collective from our gloriously messy individuals.