Surpassing The Ordinary
Let me just go ahead and say it. When I first approached the topic of excellence in our Company Culture Blog Series, all I could think about was a 30 x 40 motivational poster of bald eagle swooping over a canyon with the term “EXCELLENCE” in all caps in an abominable font. Case and point: upon a single google search with the query “inspirational poster excellence” see here. If that’s not enough for you, click See Item no. 3 under google shopping..
If excellence is the pursuit of surpassing the ordinary standard, why is it so hit or miss in the business world? More often than not, it seems to be a flat out miss. Just like that one time you struck out while simultaneously “Happy Gilmore-ing” the wiffle ball bat in gym class (or maybe that was just me). We've all experienced a lack of excellence. It might be a poorly made cup of coffee that you paid $7 for, or when you went from seeing a highly anticipated movie to actually donating $18 out of the goodness of your heart to Hollywood (drinks and popcorn not included). Lack of excellence in your work, a product, or an experience leaves you feeling underwhelmed and just bored. When you are not pushing the envelope or striving to surpass the ordinary, things become dull and motivation for both the company and the consumer begins to wane.
Why pursue excellence? Does it actually satisfy? How can we tell the difference between surpassing the ordinary and obsession for perfection? Can one pursue excellence without blurring the lines of their identity? We’re here to help answer these questions. Below is Mixer Direct’s take on “excellence” and 5 views on excellence from a handful of excelling professionals in their respective fields of expertise.
We Respect And Long For Excellence Because It Is A Built-In Desire For The Divine
Our founders acknowledge that we have an innate desire to create, innovate, and excel because it was put there by an extraordinary God who created us. Striving for excellence is identifiably an act of bringing about truth and beauty in this world because it is reflective of a God who surpasses all standards. Rural American thought leader and author Wendell Berry puts it this way, “Good human work honors God's work”.
We Think This Desire Is Good And Will Encourage Excellence In Everything That We Do
We believe excellence is a pursuit of surpassing the ordinary standard and that it’s just plain good. Dedication to excellence produces quality products, encourages innovation, and most often leads to satisfaction in our effort and the resulting product. Our encouragement of the pursuit of excellence in everything we do is rooted in a desire to press beyond the ordinary standards.
We Recognize That We Live In An Imperfect World And Will Often Fall Short Of Our Goals
Let’s not confuse excellence with perfection. We whole-heartedly acknowledge that our desire to excel will at times result in falling short of our desired expectations. Excellence does not equal perfection. However, we can take responsibility for our own success and failures. Despite the disappointment of falling short of our goals, we can celebrate when we succeed and have a vision for failures to be used as opportunities for growth.
We Will Strive To Measure Our Performance Constantly And Improve It Together
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nothing is put into motion at Mixer Direct without first measuring the value of it. The continual measuring of how we perform as a team gives the company a practical way to see where we are excelling and where we are falling short. It is an excellent tool to discover where the value is, what we are doing, and how to improve upon it.
5 Views On Excellence
"When I am working 9-5, I pursue excellence because it’s better, it’s more satisfying, and it’s really the only way that being a freelance designer, product designer, or graphic designer works. It’s just one of the few options that you have in order to make a living for yourself. So if I am going to be independent in my profession, I’m not going to be working for an agency or a communications office or something. Which is really valuable to me to have the flexibility. If I am going to pursue that idea, then it needs to go hand in hand with the pursuit of excellence because there’s no way you can survive independently without being a leader in the industry. So yes, I pursue excellence because it’s just better, it’s more satisfying, it’s good, and because it allows me the freedom to work independently and not work somewhere I don’t want to work. It allows me to be my own boss and become passionate about what I’m working on opposed to just getting through it.
But I do think it’s really important to not be obsessive. I am fatalistic about it and I don’t have a problem with that it doesn't matter. It’s going to be gone and that’s ok. I don’t need to lose sleep over it. I don’t need to base my identity around it because it is fruitless. I’m not chasing glory, I’m working hard because it’s good, and then just being satisfied no matter how that hard work turns out.”
“As a partner of a film and commercial production company in Los Angeles, it’s hard to stay in-step with your peers if you’re not producing exceptional content. In fact, I would say it’s near impossible to gain new clients and investors without doing so. You really have to dump all of your assets and resources into projects to push them to the next level. In filmmaking, you are constantly battling two things, story and image quality. The first is elemental, but the second is a science. It can be a tough balancing act to achieve both within a reasonable budget and you really do spend your entire life chasing the perfection you want to achieve.”
“Excellence to me is based in how one goes about representing themselves and their craft to the world. There is not any one definitive form of excellence that applies to all crafts. It is a mixture of skill and relevancy within a defined context. In the specialty coffee industry, for example, you can practice many varied forms of excellence depending on the situation and the audience receiving the end product. I can practice excellence in latte art designs and it would only be excellent to those who value it. I can also practice excellence by making a tasty vanilla steamer and it will also only be seen as excellent to the one who values it. A true craftsman must be able to love and be energized by the enjoyment customers receive when they experience what it is you do. Excellence is being able to skillfully construct and revel in all the parts that make the sum of people’s interactions with their craft. The root attitude behind thousands of decisions you make in a day, which in turn affect how people experience you and what you do, is what truly divides the average from the excellent.”
Shop Operations Manager at Sunergos Coffee, Director/Co-Founder of America's Best Coffee House Competition, Louisville, KY
“In a client service business environment, I view excellence as fully resolving client challenges and providing additional value through insights. Being able to help a client fully resolve a specific challenge and also help them see how they can further benefit from the challenge is one way I measure excellence in my work.
There is also a significant difference between excellence and perfection; excellence is achievable.
We should approach every significant life/business situation with excellence. However, we must also recognize that in order for excellence to be meaningful it must also be true to its definition; it is unusual and surpasses ordinary standards.”
“Excellence—as it pertains to creativity in design—can be quite unique. Design is largely based around rules, but not necessarily in the way you would think. Knowing how the elements of design (point, line, and plane) are governed by these rules (spatial relations, Gestalt principles) is foundational, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s the intentional and thoughtful breaking of these rules that creates visual excellence. When you know when and how to throw tradition and expectation out the window visually, you can clarify and emphasize your message to your audience. The true, honed skill of this practice results in graphic excellence—the thoughtful unexpected out of a tight grasp on expectations.”
Graphic Designer, Aurora, IL