Simple but Perfect things . . .

Nonso Okpala
4 min readJul 4, 2023

What does it take to make things perfect, simply perfect?

In business, I’ve always fought the obstructive perfectionist syndrome — the tendency to wait for all the ducks to line up before taking a routine action that requires urgency. A pragmatic sense of urgency combined with a tolerable level of imperfection is required in business. “Just do it,” as Nike says, is the key to business.

This is not the case in all fields. When you work as a rocket engineer, your mistakes cost lives and a lot of money. On the other hand, making mistakes in business may yield more benefits than waiting for perfection. There are far too many human factors involved in business, making it less dependent on perfection. Both scenarios (rocket scientist and routine business) are extremes, but there is a grey area that requires a balancing act. These are the simple but potentially perfect things. Things as simple as a chair.

Yes, a chair.

Why wait for perfection to make a chair? In a sitting position, a chair with flaws will still support your frame. A table and other commonplace furniture will do the same. This is where my “imperfection rule” in business falls short. It is functional, but can it be perfect?

In these simple and routine tasks, perfection comes full circle and rewards abundantly. It elevates the craft from a simple chair that meets functional needs to divine levels of “artistry.” How do you turn something simple and functional into a simple, functional, but perfect work of art?

There are numerous aspects to it, but I will focus on one in this article. The art of continuous learning and perfection.

On a recent trip, I came across a 50-year-old furniture company. They were never focused on making chairs; rather, they were committed to making perfect chairs from the start. They have perfected a “process” that produces perfect chairs, dubbed “art chair,” over the years. Chairs that occupy your living space for reasons other than functionality. In some cases, they serve as a conversation starter, a story, or a symbol of perfection. It basically lends its beauty to any space it is placed in and takes charge of the narrative or small talk that occurs within.

During my visit to the showroom, the company demonstrated how one of these “perfect chairs” evolved. I saw models of both current perfect chairs and older, less perfect models. I witnessed the story of continuous improvement that forms a moat around their craft. It includes a process for skill set specialisation and process optimisation, with teams performing a small part of a large process. There is also a high retention rate, which allows people to stay in the company long enough to hone their skills. Not to mention sourcing the best raw materials on the market. These, and numerous other micro adjustments, lead to perfection over a long period of time — 50 years.

This can also be applied in business without invalidating the theory of imperfection in business. The lesson for me is that simple things that don’t require perfection to be functional on a competitive level can be made perfect by a process. A simple production is elevated to the level of “art” due to the process. Even mundane and routine businesses can be improved by the process to the point where the output is art in many ways. Simple, but perfect.

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Nonso Okpala

A visionary and serial investor. Managing Director/CEO of VFD Group Ltd and Father-In-Chief.