Sometimes I get a piece of advice that seems so obvious it takes me a while to truly appreciate it. Even worse, I may realize it was an insight I gained in the past but allowed to depreciate to the point I forgot it was ever a big deal. Last quarter, I got one of those bits of advice from my professor in Advanced Business Strategy.

At the time, I was spending a lot of time researching my portion of the final assignment in the course. I found that every new piece of information I uncovered led to more things that needed to be researched, and I was starting to get overwhelmed by the endless forking. The end of the quarter was fast approaching, and  I still had no idea what my section was going to be like. I needed some help, so I asked the professor in class what I should do. He paused for a moment, leading me to think I was going to get a long, “academic” answer, but instead, he said “just start writing.” He then followed up with an explanation that until I put something down on paper, I wouldn’t be able to focus my research to get the max benefit from it. 

I took him up on his advice, and that ended up being a pivot point for me in that project, where it stopped feeling unmanageable. It also helped me recognize a long-standing problem for me that I was sure to run into during my internship (and I did): spending too much time trying to put out a perfect, “final” version on the first pass of something.  

I imagine that it’s a common problem, especially when it involves an unfamiliar or somewhat subjective topic where the likelihood of being wrong increases.  What it ultimately does is delay getting the feedback that is necessary to actually improve something to the point that it can be submitted.  Today, I listened to Seth Godin (his blog…h/t to @monkbent for the link) speak in downtown Chicago, and he touched upon the same concept by saying that it is absolutely crucial to get to the point that you “ship a product.” Again, the idea was that until you put something out there, you won’t be able to get the feedback necessary to determine what works, what doesn’t work, and improve along the way.

I plan on using my 2nd year at Kellogg to try and work on this “perfection paralysis” as much as possible. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to do so given all of the group assignments that are built into the classes here. I’m wishing that I had been more aware of the problem much sooner, because tackling it before the summer definitely would have made my internship at BCG easier and more productive.<p>