• Eve Arnold

Quantity Leads to Quality  — Produce x10 the Amount

Photo by ritesh singh on Unsplash

“It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

More is less. We value quality things. Cadburys chocolate over the home brand. Heinz beans over the Tesco’s own. When it comes to our own work, we know that people value quality over quantity. One great article is better than seven mediocre ones. Most people will tell you that quality comes before quantity, every single time.

For some areas of life that is utterly true. I don’t need five coats, I don’t need seven pairs of jeans, I don’t need 14 pairs of shoes. I’ll go with fewer, better quality items. That way I’m wearing things I love. Not things I don’t mind.

When we focus on the volume of product we often forget about the quality. It applies to lots of areas of life. That essay you need to submit next week. You’ve left it till the last minute, so you focus on the word count, over the meaning in the words. In your business, you focus on sell, sell, sell rather than meaningful customer interactions. More sales come before making a quality sell, one that someone will remember.

But there is an argument for another way.

The perfect pot

Thirty students sit anxiously waiting their first day. It’s been a summer of anticipation (and partying) but today is the day they start. Pottery. They will be starting a pottery class of all things. A pottery class with world renown potterer, one that is about to teach them all his tricks of the trade. They sit and listen intently.


He tells the class that he’s about to split them into two separate groups. Fifteen in one group and fifteen in the other. Group 1, need to present him with as many pots as possible by the end of next week. He doesn’t care what they look like (as long as they mildly resemble a pot). He wants as many as possible from group 1 by the end of next week. He’s looking for quantity.

Now for group 2 he says. Group 2 are to present him with one pot that is the best quality. He wants a perfectly moulded, perfectly rounded pot. Just the one. He doesn’t care how the group get there. He doesn’t care if they spend time planning or doing. They just need to figure out a way to create the perfectly shaped pot. He’s looking for quality.

So, they off they go. Hours of work. Endless pots. Until both groups arrive the following Friday with the fruits of their labour.

Two tables for two groups. The teacher stands inbetween the two.

Group 1 approach the table to meet the teacher. On their table they place 500 pots. Pot after pot, they stack them so high they have to place a few around the table legs and on the floor. Sweat peeling down their faces. They look exhausted but they have produced 500 (varying in quality) pots. The teacher observes the pots, nods and looks to the other group.

Group 2 in the same vein, approach their table. This time with just the one pot. The one perfect pot. They place it in the centre of the table and look across to group 1’s table, slightly embarrassed.

The Lesson

The teacher looks at both groups and smiles.

From the pile of 500 pots he pulls out one pot and places it on the table next to group 2’s ‘perfect pot’. As he does, all the members of group 2 become saddened by what they see.

Their perfect pot was not all that perfect after all.

The pot pulled from group 1’s stack of 500 is far superior. It’s edges have a cleaner finish, it’s rounder and fuller. It’s a better, more perfect pot. Better quality.

The teacher smiles.

He says “We sometimes strive for perfection by planning, thinking and observing. Just like group 2 did. We think of the 200 ways we could have done it in an attempt to minimise the risk of getting it wrong. However, as you can see here, there is no substitute for practice. Practice makes perfect. Quantity leads to quality.”

There are areas of our lives that we can pontificate. We can think through till we are blue in the face, however, there is sometimes no substitute for plain hard work. Put in the hours, practice the craft. Get it wrong. Get it right and then get it wrong again.

Practice in the open.

Quantity leads to quality.

Have a gander at my other articles here 🙂

#Growth #Startup #Productivity #Work #SelfImprovement

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