Is this the start of a rough-it-up revolution?

Nikki Barkwill – Senior Account Manager

Not long ago, my three year old daughter wanted to play with a sticker activity book that she’d received as a gift. We opened the book and I explained the instructions to her. You had to find the correct character stickers to match up with the ‘shadows’ of that character on the page. So we looked through the stickers and she found one of the missing characters. When I asked her where it should go, she pointed to the correct space on the page, but then proceeded to stick the character on top of a horse instead (he wanted to ride it, of course). When she went to do the same with the second sticker, my instant thought was ‘no that doesn’t go there’ and I was about to say to her ‘we need to put the stickers in the right spaces’ – and I stopped myself.

Why did it matter if the stickers didn’t go where they were meant to? She was being creative and using her imagination. Then it got me to thinking, maybe ‘perfectionism’ and ‘conformity’ have become so engrained in us that we sometimes overlook the beauty and power in imperfection. 

If that is the case, it’s not hard to see how we’ve arrived here. We have so many more ‘digital windows’ into other people’s lives than we used to and these windows are usually rose-tinted and sprinkled with some glitter for good measure. When we are surrounded by supposed ‘perfection’, it’s only natural to compare these snapshots with our own lives and these images and ideals start to influence the way we think. 

Technology also has its part to play in this narrative. With AI now fully integrated into many of the programmes and apps that we use daily, images that we see and copy that we read are becoming more uniform than ever.   

Don’t get me wrong, AI undoubtably has it’s benefits and is predicted to do some amazing things, but it does beg the question, are we just feeding into this machine that shows us perfection and uniformity everywhere we look? 

A study by Jean-Christophe Goulet-Pelletier and a team from the University of Ottawa, Ontario, found that shooting for greatness rather than perfection can lead to higher creativity and increased openness to experience (British Journal of Psychology (2022), 113, 176-207). 

The results revealed that the more participants strove for excellence, the greater originality and openness to experience they showed. In contrast, the more perfectionist participants were, the fewer original ideas they had and the less open to experience they were. This suggests that an element of flexibility not present in perfectionism can improve our creative thinking. 

So, what if we started a ‘rough-it-up revolution’ and embraced the imperfect? What if we didn’t retouch that image to make it that tiny bit brighter? What if we wrote the copy for that newsletter ourselves and left in some of the inaccuracies that would have been edited out? Would perceptions and sales fall? Or, would people connect with the humanity that is becoming so rare?  

Perhaps if we all start to embrace imperfection in our day to day lives, our creativity – and mental health will flourish. 

I for one, will be making a conscious effort to do exactly this and will be encouraging my kids to colour outside the lines, think outside the box and create freely. 

If you need some help in humanising your content and letting the creativity flow, we’d love to hear from you. 

 

References: 

https://www.bps.org.uk/research-digest/striving-perfection-rather-excellence-can-kill-creativity  

https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/bjop.12530?saml_referrer=