Don’t Do Your Best!

Stop Trying to Excel!

If you watch anime or read manga, you’ll come across pretty common phrase – when a character is about to complete a task or do something that they might find challenging, their friends or family who are encouraging them to say “ganbatte ne,” which loosely translates to “do your best.”

Its the Japanese version of “Good Luck.” You also hear characters say ‘ganbarimasu,” which means “I’ll do my best.” Many of us use those words ourselves when we talk to our kids – “do your best” or “you did your best” seems a prevalent phrase from parents. It’s even seeped into our work life – we expect our employees to do their best as well.

But what is best? We don’t know, do we?

For example, let’s say that you’ve come up with an excellent idea for a new service, and you do your best to address the needs and wants of your target market. You then run some customer-centric design thinking workshops, and your customers tell you that it needs a lot of work to meet their requirements. There’s a mismatch between your best and their expectations. You may have gone so far beyond their expectations that they can’t see how the product will meet their needs and wants. Your vision, your “best,” was not what they were looking for. They were looking for something else, which may have been something that you created along the way to your best. An earlier version of your product may have been perfect, but since you may not have involved your prospects in the conversations, you may have overshot what they needed while this is an argument for including your prospective customer early and often, its also a case to put out much less than your best, just to see what happens.

Many of us are perfectionists (or near perfectionists), so we tweak and tweak, sometimes past the point of “useful” tweaking. I’ve experienced it in a few startups myself – the founders could not agree on the feature set to release, so instead of throwing out an MVP to see if anyone was interested, they kept adding features to the products without getting feedback if the new features were at all useful to the customer.

I’ve posted many a blog post which I work on for a long time, and it’s polished and impressive, only to see that one languish as hardly read when something I whipped out in 15 minutes with minimal editing becomes the most popular post on my site. The reality is that your best is probably not what your customers are looking for.

If you see a need, try to fill that specific need as simply, as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Don’t be afraid to put out something half-assed in your own mind; it might be the exact thing your customers want. Sometimes your best is too much, sometimes spending too much time refining, rewriting and tweaking to make something your best, might be the exact thing which kills it as a product.

Next time, just start. Get it out there. Show off your best version to the world.

A wise man once said – if you are not embarrassed by your first version, then you waited too long to launch it. Google started the “beta” trend, and if it’s good enough for Google, it should be good enough for you. Stop endlessly tweaking your product until its perfect and get it out there – with clear ways to get feedback and comment right back to you. And when you get those comments, act on them right away, and rev up the product. Creating this virtuous cycle of constant improvement and mini-pivots based on your market’s feedback is essential to the success of your product. Next time, instead of “ganbarimasu,” say “shimasu” (I will).