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Lynne Cazaly on Embracing “ish” and the Dangers of Perfectionism

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In this podcast, recorded at the Agile on the Beach New Zealand conference, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Lynne Cazaly about the dangers of perfectionism and using visual tools to make sense of information and ideas.

Key Takeaways

  • “Ish” has come to mean approximately or good enough
  • Perfectionism is the opposite of “ish” and is dangerous  
  • We often overcomplicate things and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to achieve a standard that is not necessary
  • Perfectionism is a serious problem today and is causing personal and social harm
  • Sensemaking as a way of understanding the deeper meaning of what is being talked about or expressed

Show Notes

  • 00:25 Introduction
  • 01:23 Lynn’s keynote titled “-ish”
  • 01:35 How “ish” has come to mean approximately or somewhat in common use 
  • 01:51 It is also used in the context of being good enough
  • 01:57 Perfectionism is the opposite of “ish” and is dangerous
  • 02:30 Exploring how good is good enough
  • 02:38 The importance of defining what good means to the individual and in the context
  • 02:52 The definition of done as a standard of quality
  • 03:15 Exploring the definition of done and “ish” for dinner with friends
  • 03:57 We often overcomplicate things and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to achieve a standard that is not necessary
  • 04:15 Perfectionism is a serious problem today and is causing personal and social harm
  • 04:50 Quoting longitudinal study research on the impact of perfectionism over a number of decades
  • 05:07 Three types of perfectionism
  • 05:12 1) Having unrealistic and sometimes obsessively high standards for ourselves has increased by 16% over the study period
  • 05:59 2) The belief that society expects more from us has increased by 33% over the study period. 
  • 06:08 The impact of this societal perception of perception results in people aiming for standards that are not necessary and often unattainable  
  • 06:51 3) Where I have high standards for other people has increased by about 10% over the study period
  • 07:17 All three of the types of perfectionism are based on perceptions not reality and they result in trying to achieve standards which are actually unattainable
  • 07:31 We do sometimes need to aim for high standards, but we also put in more time and effort than is needed on many tasks
  • 07:42 The law of diminishing returns and the Pareto effect are examples of principles that show the value of not aiming for perfection in everything we do
  • 08:24 Sensemaking as a way of understanding the deeper meaning of what is being talked about or expressed
  • 08:46 Not just drawing pictures -rather using drawing to map out information and ideas
  • 08:55 Cues to look for – watch people’s hand gestures and facial expressions and be aware of the tone of voice
  • 09:21 Drawing/sketching shapes and images to map out information

  • 09:28 It’s about getting to the meaning and understanding quicker
  • 09:48 Making the connection between ideas using words and shapes
  • 09:57 “I can’t draw” often means “I can’t draw as well as I think I should be able to“ (connecting back to “ish”)
  • 10:38 Overcoming perfectionism means that the sketches you draw will be adequate for the sensemaking need
  • 11:11 Being vulnerable and having a “gentle share”
  • 11:32 Start with simple and logical imagery such as circles, squares and logical models such as Venn diagrams
  • 11:52 Logical models serve as powerful sense-making tools
  • 12:17 No-one is as critical of our work as we are, we need to trust our abilities and our thinking
  • 12:30 Trust the skill that we may still be learning – allow the learning to happen
  • 13:05 Deliberately taking a growth mindset approach to learning new skills
  • 13:25 Why visual imagery results in clearer understanding and better sensemaking
  • 14:12 Some of the benefits that come from using visual communications techniques to convey information:
    • Meetings 25% shorter
    • Learning recall about 30% greater
    • Deeper experience
    • Reduced cognitive overload

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