Perfect is the Enemy of Good

We all either interacted with, or contain the traits and/or tendencies, of perfectionism. These relational experiences help us understand the qualities of perfectionism, so we may resist entering into a more extreme mental health condition known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Aligned with the mind-numbing repetition of tasks observed in OCD individuals, a trend toward Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has placed priority on efficiency of rote, replicable tasks like filing and organizing without human error. I see this trend as maturing to an immutable benefit where administrative tasks are performed efficiently and devoid of error, which liberates humans to perform engaging and fulfilling strategic tasks requiring uniquely human traits of empathy and morality to instill a service-oriented culture. The Law of Mechanical Turks outlines the structure for task completion through newly introduced AI and perfected by ML.

The Law of Mechanical Turks was outlined in the book Linchpin by Seth Godin where the author stated that individual tasks can be compartmentalized and predefined into their constituent parts. For instance, if we discuss constructing and shipping a cardboard box. We can assign one individual to construct the cardboard box in its entirety to include sourcing of materials (tape, cardboard, scissors if applicable) and construction and shipping, which is a painstaking process with many steps that introduce the possibility of human error. However, a supervisor or manager can compartmentalize and assign individuals separate tasks on an assembly line or in a cell to minimize human error while heightening efficiency. An example would be, one individual over sourcing materials like a shipping and receiving representative, another individual transports the materials via forklift such as a material handler, one individual such as an assembly cell technician constructs the sides, bottom, and top of the box with available cardboard, and another assembly cell technician secures the structure by taping the sides, bottom, and top of the cardboard box in preparing it for shipment to the end consumer. The end product would be moved to the shipping and delivery area and shipped for order fulfillment. This process is already occurring throughout the country and can be completed to and beyond specification by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Therefore, we must become “indispensable”, like Seth Godin describes throughout his novel, by crafting and developing our uniquely human traits, and following sound business principles evidenced by leading organizations in industry.

In business school, you are taught the concept known as the “last mile.” This concept is conveyed through the example of cable connectivity for both telephone and internet to a specific household. The infrastructure created by laying coaxial cable lines hundreds and thousands of miles is 99% of the task, and is relatively easy to perform when accounting for time, costs, and obstacles or an impedance. However, the final 1% referred to as the “last mile” is increasingly difficult with exorbitant costs as government zoning and ordinances must be met, internal house cabling and outlets must already be in place, software and hardware must be properly connected with a sustained signal that can be monitored and corrected at a central organizational location, a customer service team must be hired and trained to identify, assess, inform, and correct any issues that may arise during service, and contract and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) must be prepared in accordance with government entities like the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and to the satisfaction of the end user. I will abstain from including the numerous organizational departments that ensure complete product and service delivery from customer acquisition to fruition of the customer/organization relationship.

This example outlines the shortfall of perfectionist thinking in diverting resources away from their intended purpose. We spend more time perfecting a task or process while it already exceeds sufficiency for our intended audience. A prolific company everyone is both familiar with and enamored with, Apple, intuitively understands that the speed to market takes precedence over perfectionism.

The Apple iPhone 4 was noted to contain coverage issues if an individual placed their hand over the back of the phone, such as when one would engage in a typical phone call. Apparently, Apple’s design only contained an antenna placed in only one direction, rather than bi-laterally in two direction, blocking any signal from transmission to include both sending and receiving like an impervious Farraday cage. The faulty episode was aptly named ‘Antennagate’ with immediate short-term ramifications for the company’s stock:

In The Wake Of 'Antennagate', Apple's Stock Takes A Hit

While the short-term effects were impactful, Apple understood the degree of brand loyalty they fostered for long-term success while capitalizing on another concept known as the first mover advantage. Samsung invested 2-3 years into research and development to reverse engineer the iPhone’s innovation(s) for end consumers. The first mover advantage afforded Apple a majority market share while other companies toiled away at developing alternatives and/or substitutes to compete. Apple’s competitive advantage is analogous to patents obtained in the Pharmaceutical industry with a disparity in the timeline of only 2-3 years without relevant competition for Apple versus an astronomical 20 years for pharmaceutical companies.

Essentially, Apple continued to excel as a primary innovator in the Consumer Technology space, as the stock price appreciated in concert with the organization’s leadership position. Innovation may always outstrip trends like Artificial Intelligence (AI), but as a conservative measure you should always seek to serve and understand others. Robots are useful in completing tasks and processes with efficiency and effectiveness, yet they fail to fully understand the human condition in its entirety of arduous trials and seemingly fleeting tribulations.


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