• Will Small

Quality over quantity? Not the whole story?



I am sure you've heard the phrase, 'It's about quality, not quantity'. Have you ever found yourself saying this to someone?


In many circumstances, it's a wise thing to say. Better to have a few friends you can deeply trust than a crowd of ego-stroking strangers who won't walk with you through your deepest moment of need. Better to eat a small selection of handcrafted specialty chocolates than binge your way through a giant bag of knock-off smarties.


But if you're used to positioning 'quantity' as the opponent of 'quality' you'll miss a very important truth.


Ain't no quality without quantity first.



Your favourite film? It took hundreds of hours of footage on the cutting room floor to create that 2 hour masterpiece.


The album you've got on heavy rotation? Do you know how many weeks, months, even years of work it took to produce that 40 minute experience?


Your most trusted relationships? How many crowds have passed through your life in order for you to find the people you can count on one hand who really know you?


Quality and quantity both matter.


The way I see it: there are two creative movements.


I call them 'the dump' and 'the cut'.


The dump is all about quantity. Every idea on the table, every word on the page. Show up. And let it all spill out. Don't hold anything back. Tell your inner critic to take a long walk. Be as curious as a child who never stops asking the next question.


This is essential. But it's not the whole process. If you've been letting your inner critic call the shots for a long time (like most of us do) you might be so excited about all these cool, overflowing ideas that you immediately rush to share them with the world (I'm guilty of this more than I'd like to admit).


Do the dump. Then let it breathe. And come back later for the cut.


The cut is all about quality. That sentence is trash. That word is cliche. That metaphor needs refining. Where is the gold here? Eliminate all the dirt, until it shines.


This is how you 'make every word count'.


You start with many, so you can end with a few.


If you start with the few....you're selling yourself short. If you end with the many, you haven't finished the work. Genius doesn't stream on demand. It is the quality that emerges from quantity. Maybe instead of 'quality over quantity', we should say 'quality after quantity'.


The dump and the cut.


Do you do both? And do you do them in the correct order?


What are you working on right now? Could understanding these two movements help you approach it with fresh eyes?



Does your team or organisation utilise these two creative movements? Do you know how to nurture spaces of creative freedom as well as precise refinement? I'd love to help you put this into practice in the context of your project, your team or your organisation. Reach out here if you're interested in a Lead by Story workshop exploring how to make every word count.

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