The Talkoot Project Blog from Jun 12, 2012

Perfect is the enemy

Hi! Zak from Magnolia here. This short post is about why fear of criticism and lack of feedback can make public collaboration (and personal productivity) hard. The post focuses on my own concerns in these areas, but I suspect it'll resonate with others as well.

Do you have trouble with criticism, public collaboration or perfectionism? Please give the post a read and leave your comments below.

Fear of criticism

About a week ago, I posted blogging guidelines for Talkoot that included a schedule and the maxim:

Perfect is the enemy of good and of done.

This saying was on my mind because I'd spent too long writing the blogging guidelines. I had my reasons - the first post should be good, communication is very important, I want to do a really good job, and so on.

I then spent far too much of last week trying to write a perfect blog post about how we're designing collaboration in the Talkoot project.

Thinking harder about why I'd fall into a trap that I know about, I think that it's very simple:

I'm afraid of criticism.

I know that I'm not alone in this. Fear of criticism stops many people from contributing in situations where they feel vulnerable.

For my part, I'm at the start of a new project and I'm significantly worried about it getting enough interest. At the same time, I also want feedback to help motivate me and keep me excited. It is a funny paradox where I both fear and need communication.

Getting unstuck

I've been thinking hard about how to hack around this problem, both for myself and for other (eventual) participants in the project.

For myself, I'm trying these things:

Staying focused - It's easy for me to predict criticism and get focused on it: all I have to do is review my own work. Mere seconds into review, I start to feel uneasy about various bits of it that could be so much better.

Right now, my focus needs to be on using writing and other work to get people engaged with Talkoot. If the work meets those goals, I'm succeeding. The "perfectness" of the work matters much less than this.

Asking for support from colleagues - I work with a bunch of nice, smart people. I've asked a few of them to help me by:

  • listening to what I'm concerned about
  • paying attention to what I'm working on when I'm stuck
  • reminding me what I'm working on and why I'm working on it
  • giving me feedback on my work
  • being in touch more often (as I work remotely from the rest of the team)

Thanks for reading!

Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please comment on this post. In particular, I'm interested in:

  • Your own concerns in this area?
  • How you deal with a fear of criticism?
  • What do you think helps build a culture where people feel safe to take risks and be criticized?
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