The Null Device

Never mind the quality, feel the width

An interesting meditation on the trap that is perfectionism (via Gimbo):
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

There are 4 comments on "Never mind the quality, feel the width":

Posted by: dj http:// Mon Feb 23 01:25:17 2004

Perfectionism is supposedly a major cause of procrastination.

Posted by: acb Mon Feb 23 02:13:30 2004

I'd agree with that.

In the above story, both groups apparently had equal access to clay, and could have made as many pots as they needed for practice; though the perfectionist group didn't use this because they weren't driven to do so. The moral would be: make more mistakes; make more rubbish. It's not a waste if you get practice from it.

I think there's something in that for all of us.

Posted by: El Bizarro Mon Feb 23 03:20:40 2004

I do find the authors assertion that this is justification for space research being handed over to the private sector (and along with it massive amounts of state capital I'm sure) a wee bit dodgey. It is very much in the same vein as "trickle down economics works" and other such articles of faith that have no basis in reality.

Posted by: Graham Mon Feb 23 08:31:43 2004

It makes for the roots of an interesting observation about how evolution works, though.

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