Daniel Bernal

January 30, 2024

A paradox of perfection


There's a narrative in tech companies that often goes untold: "Open product feedback."  It's a tale of transformation. Not the kind celebrated in startup blogs, but the kind that slowly eats into the company itself. A vibrant and innovative culture turned into an over-calculated shadow of its past.

Imagine a young startup unburdened by bureaucracy. In the early days, open feedback is the lifeblood of innovation. Ideas flow freely, unencumbered by hierarchy or fear. Mistakes are not just tolerated but celebrated as stepping stones towards becoming better. This environment is electric and dynamic. Magic happens, and disruptive products are born.

But as the company grows, the culture that fueled it mutates. The once-catalytic open product feedback system slowly morphs into a behemoth of over-analysis and second-guessing. Every proposal, feature, pixel, and line of code is reviewed and scrutinized not just for its potential but for its ability to offend, deviate, and risk the status quo. 

Pursuing perfection stifles progress. Teams no longer ship like before, and everyone bogs down in an endless cycle of internal iteration. This cycle is often excused in a high-quality bar, but it feels more like a paralyzing fear of failure, criticism, and not being everything to everyone.

The irony is palpable. In trying to create the perfect product, these companies achieve the opposite. They produce something average, designed not to excel but to offend the least. It's a product created by a committee, stitched together from averaged-out ideas.

And in this pursuit of the unattainable – perfection – something far more valuable is lost: trust. Trust in the same people hired for their brilliance, ingenuity, and ability to see what others don't. By group-reviewing every tiny change, companies silently scream that they don't trust their talent. The collective paranoia of feedback loops matters more than the vision and expertise of their people.

In this environment, missed deadlines and pushed-back launches are common, while the window of opportunity slowly closes, often without the company even realizing it. By the time the product is deemed "ready" (if that ever happens), the market has moved on, competitors have taken the lead, and users have lost interest.

This story isn't just a hypothetical scenario. It's a pattern repeated across the tech industry. We fail to understand that more feedback does not equate to better outcomes. When not managed judiciously, it can stifle innovation, slow processes, and lead to mediocre or, at best, average products.

The solution is simple: Approach feedback discerningly and stop acting on most of it, independent of the source. It should be a tool for improvement, not a burden to creativity and risk-taking. Allow your team to make the call and teach them to balance listening vs. leading, iterating vs. shipping, and aiming for perfection vs. embracing the imperfect nature of innovation.

In the end, the companies that understand this balance are the ones that evolve and lead. They are the ones who remember the core of what made them great in the first place: the courage to take risks, to trust their people, and to understand that innovation is never born from a desire to please everyone but from the daring to please a few in ways they never thought possible.

About Daniel Bernal

👋 Howdy, I'm Daniel. I write apps while tinkering on the interwebs from beautiful Valencia 🇪🇸

Currently at DuckDuckGo.  Opinions are my own

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