This post was written by Aubrey Hill, a former member of our team.
Confession: I’m a perfectionist. My coworkers know me all too well for my task lists, compulsive neatness, and pouncing on any missing Oxford commas. I’m guilty of clearing our newspaper stash before everyone has the chance to read them because the clutter makes me crazy. When I have a glimmer of a new idea, it’s straight to the mental recycling bin unless it’s fully-formed and “perfect”.
I recently came across an article that made me realize that I may have been approaching it all wrong. Sometimes the best ideas aren’t necessarily the best ones from the very beginning—sometimes they start out as mediocre or even downright bad, but with some hard work, they can become the best ideas. By rejecting imperfect ideas outright, we miss out on the opportunity to stretch our creative muscles and practice the process of idea improvement. In short, we “must learn to accept imperfection as an asset in the innovation process.”
Another article underscores this concept; it debunks the popular opinion that brainstorming should occur without any judgment of the ideas shared. Instead, it suggests that brainstorm sessions should include honest and constructive feedback. Providing that honest feedback is what forces us to challenge our own thinking and further stretch our creative capacities, improving the ideas that come out of it. We’re committed to this idea at CCMU; our brainstorming sessions would not be as productive if we did not make the conscious decision to strike a balance between creating a safe space to share ideas and fueling the discussion with healthy critique of those ideas.
Combining the core messages from both articles gives us valuable insight into how we could better work towards health reform. We should not reject new ideas or processes because they aren’t initially perfect, and we should seek constructive criticism to find the flaws so we can fix them. Truthfully, implementing health reform will be turbulent and challenging. But, it is important that we remember that what begins as imperfect is not necessarily poor quality—we just need to work hard to improve upon the foundation we’ve laid. Along with that hard work comes constant evaluation, re-evaluation, and consulting with other perspectives.
Implementing health reform is difficult but critically important. There are many tight deadlines before us and great pressure to get the work done with limited resources. It would be easy to fall into the trap of hurrying with decisions and working unilaterally or rejecting the ideas of others outright. We could instead propel ourselves forward even further by consciously deciding to seek out and address flaws and welcome different perspectives. The quality of our work will truly be rooted in our ability to accept open and honest feedback, think critically and strategically about our options, and come together around a shared vision for the future. That way, our final product—a reformed health care system—will ultimately be much closer to perfect.