No, We Can Do Better

Songwriter Priscilla Renea doesn’t like when co-writers say “no” in sessions without any additional input. She would much rather hear “no, but let’s try…” or, my favorite, “no, we can do better.” Renea isn’t talking about a perpetual march towards perfection either. She’s talking about how we really want to collaborate with our clients and coworkers.


Seth Godin calls the act of putting something into the world by its industrial term – “shipping.” How do we constructively iterate and improve like Renea suggests, while actually reaching a conclusion and shipping our work? How do we not let perfect be the enemy of good enough?


We ship when we’ve made something different from the status quo that we believe will stand on its own. We make the presentation, the suggestion, the pitch, and we accept that it will be judged. We accept that it may fail. We accept that we’ll stop this task to start working towards shipping the next product, project, or service – whatever the outcome may be.


Something Godin and Renea both understand is that if we don’t ship, it’s probably because it wasn’t worth doing in the first place. That’s why there’s no room for faux collaborators who just say no. If we find we’re failing, or that something we’re attempting just can’t catch a break, we have to go back and examine our process.


Failure doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t have shipped or we weren’t ready to ship. Failure is a form of feedback, if we’re willing to look and listen. Failure is also a sign we’re still playing. No one fails who isn’t in the game.


Smart collaboration works. There’s no time for just saying no. We can do better.