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 | May 19, 2016

The 98% Rule: Why you shouldn’t strive for perfection in business

posted by , Rob McCarty

98% Rule

Unpopular opinion: Perfection is overrated

Not only is perfection overrated, striving for it in both business and life is a waste of time, money and energy. Yeah, you heard me right. If you're not quite with me on this, you may change your mind if you stick with me for a couple minutes and read on.

Introducing: The 98% Rule

I was first introduced to the 98% rule nearly 10 years ago by a colleague of mine. Long story short, he said something like this: "Rob, when it comes down to it, 98% is what I strive for. 98% is good enough. When we try to go the full 100%, we lose money almost every time—and nobody even notices the difference between 98% and perfection."

This perspective immediately struck a cord with me. In business (and marketing especially), we often strive for 100% perfection in our projects, on our websites, emails, social media presence, content calendars, and on and on. But the idea of striving for perfection is nothing new; as humans, society sets these expectations at an early age, with academic performance, athletic abilities, etc. But think about it—is there really a significant difference between a student who graduates high school with a 3.9 GPA and a 4.0? I don't think so.

Nothing is perfect. Nothing.

As difficult as it is to accept this fact, it is the truth. Nothing is perfect. Now, I'm not saying to not perform to the absolute best of your ability. The lesson here is to not get hung up when your absolute best doesn't yield perfect results.

Here's a relatable example: Technology is obviously an incredibly useful and necessary tool in today's world. We can't imagine life without it (or life before it) at this point. However, it doesn't always perform how you'd like it to perform. Have you ever tried to share a photo on Facebook or post a comment, but for whatever reason, it won't let you? You may ask friends or family for help, turn to Google and forums, or even contact Facebook directly. Despite your efforts, you still can't find a solution and the problem persists. You've already spent a couple hours looking for a solution to this minute problem... is it worth wasting more time?

As frustrating as these situations may be, it's important to keep your priorities in mind. Is this situation worth dedicating a few more hours to in order to achieve a 100% perfect result? Probably not.

Adapt and move forward

In a world of imperfections, the best thing we can do is to adapt and keep moving forward. When a project has reached 98% quality (which is still incredibly high quality), and the project is within or under budget, it's important to understand that it is good enough and to let it be. From my experience, attempting to close that 2% gap is where unnecessary money is spent, arguments happen, and the project quality actually decreases. Encourage your team—and encourage yourself—to worry less about perfection and more about the value your project is providing your audience.

Remember this: Perfection is subjective. What's perfect to you, may be far from it for your audience. Instead of letting the minute details make or break your work, think of the project as a whole, and I promise you will save a ton of time, money and unnecessary stress.