Is it time to stop polishing?

man polishing carAhhhh, the internet.

With the abundance of free information provided online, social learning opportunities are becoming far more prevalent and I find myself in a quandary over the content I am now producing for my “new look” business.

You see, I live in two worlds with regard to my work.

The first world is where I have grown through my career, the corporate world, the big end of town. Where everything is polished and shiny and runs to a project plan with a budget and a team.

The second world is the small business owner’s world, the entrepreneurial sector, where things move quickly and are not always polished. Budgets are limited and the buck stops with you.

So as I get ready to launch some new resources to this community I find myself hesitating and asking questions, second guessing my choices and procrastinating on hitting the “go” button.


For example, I have some great podcast interviews with fabulous learning professionals from our neck of the woods that I’m just about ready to share…

…but a couple of episodes have “imperfect” audio.

I don’t mean incomprehensible, I just mean slightly imperfect. A few minor glitches. Unpolished. Not shiny.

And my corporate head says “It’s not shiny, you can’t send it out like that”.

So we tried re-mastering the audio to get it shiny and it didn’t work – in fact removing the glitches made the edited version sound worse!

And people have been so generous in giving up their time to talk to me already that re-recording is not something I would ask them to do. Plus, we would lose the flow of the original live discussions, which were great!

I believe that the value in those podcasts far outweighs a little audio imperfection here and there.

Having discussed this issue with a few of my trusted colleagues (thank you all for your input, by the way!), the general consensus is that if the content has value then listeners will accept (and maybe not even notice) minor imperfections.

This entire initiative is a learning journey for us too and we have learned a lesson here that will make for a better product in the podcast series overall.

One example of imperfect but valuable content I follow online is from Roger James Hamilton through his video series Entrepreneur TV. I love Roger’s work and I love the raw, “in the moment” style to his videos which he mostly records on his iPhone.

Yes, he is sometimes at the top of a tall building in a blustery wind.

Yes, sometimes the birds chirping in the background are a little annoying and loud.

No, there is no makeup or good lighting.

But here’s five reasons why I will always watch Roger’s videos when they land in my Inbox:

  1. He always provides such great value
  2. His content comes from real life experiences/stories
  3. He always provides such great value
  4. He gives clear instructions to implement his strategies
  5. He always provides such great value.

So I watch.

And I learn.

And I do.

The world is moving so fast, if we constantly hold back publishing and sharing content because we’re striving for perfection we risk becoming irrelevant.

As more and more organisations make the move into social learning spaces and content is being created in-house and “on the fly” we need to start looking past the shiny and focusing on the learning value.

One of my other virtual mentors, marketing guru Seth Godin, often talks about this very thing in his books and on his blog.

Seth’s view is that we need to stop spending so much time tweaking and polishing and get new ideas, products and services out there.

That’s how we test and get feedback and then we tweak.

So I think what it comes down to is this…

If I was producing content for a paying client, with a timeline, a budget and a team of skilled professionals then shiny and polished is always the goal.

You allow contingency in time and budget for fixing up problems and deliver a polished solution that meets, or preferably exceeds, requirements.

The reality?

I’m a small business owner with a passion for developing and supporting my professional community.

I don’t have a multimedia team or a large budget and no-one is paying to read this blog or listen to the podcast.

My hope is that the time, energy, knowledge and passion that are going into this project will be of interest and use to members of this community for their own development.

We take care over everything we produce, whether we’re getting paid or not, but sometimes stuff happens.

And we can let that hold us back or we can crack on, learn and improve as we go.

So as my buddy Seth would say, it’s time to ship the work.

Podcast v1.0 is launching veeeery soon – stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime I have some questions to fuel your thinking and would love to get your feedback in the comments below:

  • Do you have any examples of “unpolished content” that could be of use to your learning community?
  • Have you already stopped “polishing” or does the thought of that make you break out in a sweat (like me this week!)?
  • Where do you draw the line on “unpolished” versus “unprofessional”?

Thanks for reading!


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About the Author

Photo of Karen Moloney, Director of The eLearning eXperts

Karen Moloney is the founder and Director of The eLearning eXperts. She has been part of the eLearning industry since training as an instructional designer in the UK in 1992.

Karen started The eLearning eXperts to create engaging and effective eLearning solutions for her clients and has built an award-winning business with a reputation for quality and professionalism.

Now, having taken off the vendor hat, Karen’s big fat hairy audacious goal is to support her peers by creating and sharing resources via this hub to help develop the eLearning eXperts of the future.

Little known fact: Karen wanted to give up studying for her Computing Science “A”Level at school because she thought it was too boring.  Who knew?!

Find out more about Karen on LinkedIn