Quality Over Quantity… or Vice Versa?
Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, revolutionises the way I think about people like Picasso and Bill Gates. The people behind great ideas that “moved the world”, instead of letting it stay put, the “originals”.
Having recently listened to a podcast by Jeff Goins, a creative writer who published his bestselling book The Art of Work a few years back and who, like me, is a huge fan of Seth Godin, I decided to write about a small part of Grant’s book, instead of trying to analyse everything he wrote about the originals moving our world.
I’ll be focusing on the battle of quality against quantity, because something that Grant brought up in his book about originals made me think of my own perception of the matter. I’ve for a long-time now thought that every idea I get is worth making a note of and storing for a day it might come in handy, but I still believe in quality being better than quantity. Rather a mixed strategy, I now realise.
Grant’s idea of quantity leading to quality makes perfect sense. I mean, what are great ideas before you think of them? They’re just ideas waiting to hit your head. The more ideas you get, the likelier you will come up with a great one. This one was the easy bit, but there’s more to it.
You need to take actual steps, and now I’m going to quote Seth Godin, who said “When I look back and I see a stack of 17 books and I see 4,800 blog posts and speeches I’ve given – none of which were good enough – but all of which I shipped, it becomes pretty clear to me that I’m better off shipping than I am making it perfect.”
Seth Godin, a marketing legend, has published 17 books he doesn’t think were good enough, but shipped them anyway. So, quality or quantity?
Now name a Picasso painting, any Picasso painting.
Yeah, I couldn’t name any, yet I know that Picasso is a legendary painter. Guess how many paintings he painted in total?
And I couldn’t name a single one, yet I consider him one of Grant’s so-called originals, a person who changed the world with his art. People still pay millions for his paintings, most of which are tucked away safely in museum displays. Heck, I would go see a Picasso exhibit if one rolled into town.
The point here is that for us to remember Picasso as one of the greats of his time, he had to paint 1885 paintings and create thousands of other pieces of art. Where is the quality over quantity in this? Clearly Picasso valued quality, but he still painted dozens of paintings a year.
What I can now appreciate is that it doesn’t take that one great hit which will rock the world straight away, it takes tons of work, getting out there and being creative with many different ideas and doing loads of different things before you might hit it big. There’s no added value to holding back publishing your first book as a writer, because the chances of your book’s idea becoming better after you think and mull over it for a decade is unlikely.
However, despite this realisation I personally feel quality is still an important matter here. Typing random words to form books and publishing them won’t get you anywhere, but neither will sitting on your ideas for too long. Be brave and creative, take action on your ideas, but make sure to do them to the best of your abilities, without resorting to perfectionism. That is probably the best way I can put it.
Nothing in this world is perfect, so why demand perfection? Quantity trumps quality in the long run, but quality must never be forgotten entirely.
Now where did I put that draft of a book I wrote three years ago…