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Chasing Perfection

Are you an Answer person or a Question person?

There’s a saying in aviation that nobody’s ever flown a perfect pattern. The pattern, for the uninitiated, is an imaginary line of airspace around an airport and is broken down into several distinct phases, including taxi, takeoff, climb, crosswind, downwind, base, final, and landing. Each has precise metrics around what airspeeds, angles of attack, and inputs are required for perfection. With so many moving parts and variables, no wonder no one’s ever scored 100 percent. Pilots understand that perfection is an asymptotic true north. You can fly toward it, but you’ll never get there, and that’s okay. If the aviation community is comfortable with the concept of never achieving perfection while constantly chasing it, why don’t we find that attitude in more parts of our lives? One word comes to mind: ego.

Question and Answer People
Illustration by Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

One of my mentors is fond of saying, “The human ego is a fragile thing indeed.” Boy, he wasn’t kidding. Imagine a continuum with two types of people at its extremes — question-seeking and answer-seeking. We can all plot ourselves somewhere between the two. Answer people tend to approach the world with a declarative perspective, seldom seeking to understand or question others, choosing instead to rely mostly on previous experiences to inform their worldview. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone and they didn’t ask you a single question, that was probably an Answer person. Question people, on the other hand, are interrogative in their approach, asking tons of questions and comfortable with the fact that sometimes there are uncertainties and gray areas in life. They’re often artists, “free spirits,” and shun dogma.

Also by Henry Clifford: The Power of 1%

We all know both Question & Answer (Q&A) people. Each persona has its pros and cons. If you ask a Question person if they’re sure about something, they might glibly offer up that there’s no such thing as “sure”; that “sure” is an illusion. That’s not a great trait in someone you’re trusting your life with, no matter how truthful that statement may be. If you ask an Answer person too many questions about their opinions, they can sometimes bristle or clam up. Certitude is vitally important to these folks and they must be seen as the authority on whatever issue is being discussed.

Our industry is full of these Q&A personalities. While each may have its advantages in running a CI business, the Question folks have a significant edge in taking on board the notion that perfection is a state to be pursued but never realized. The Answer set tends to need a more black-and-white definition to benchmark against. Using the “perfect pattern” analogy, which has very clear “nailed it vs. failed it” quantitative definitions, we can show our Answer brethren that it’s possible to live in a black-and-white world but never score a perfect 100 percent.

As we ponder how to operationalize chasing perfection in our businesses, let’s look in the mirror and plot ourselves on the Q&A continuum. Permitting ourselves to constantly improve with the understanding that we’ll never achieve perfection will be more or less difficult based on our bias toward the Question or Answer personality type. We have to suspend ego to help our companies and industry move forward. If we don’t, stagnation will occur, and we’ll fall victim to our false certitude.

Also by Henry Clifford: 5 AI Tools You Should Be Using in Your CI Business Right Now

What are you doing in your business to communicate the importance of chasing perfection and encouraging the importance of learning from failure?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.