Ever checked your own work three times over and still missed a mistake? We’re often blind to our faults, and proof-reading our own work is a case in point. When you know what a sentence should say, it’s often difficult to spot the aring glerror.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the difference it makes having your work vetted by a professional before it's presented to the world. Four intersecting occurrences have brought this idea to the fore for me:
1. Last week, Penguin sent me the edited manuscript for my next book. I'm always pleasantly surprised at the difference a professional editor can make to a book’s total strength. Cull a few thousand words, have someone challenge your logic and poke at your soft bits, and everything becomes tighter, stronger and more succinct.
2. At around the same time, I also sat with a group of judges at the conclusion of a project I've been working on for a big organisation. The challenge - an innovation search - was open to the entire company. I got to work with the 15 individuals whose ideas were selected, training them in a combination of presentation skills and how to pitch an innovation concept. Last week, the senior judges told me about the high number of entries that were rejected simply because their explanations were poorly written and therefore unintelligible. These people may have had excellent ideas. We'll never know. Their poor spelling, grammar and presentation disqualified them from a chance to shine in front of the senior executives before the process even began.
3. Over the course of the past few months, I've had five or six separate requests from authors to review and endorse their books. In a number of cases, I've had to say no. The writing was riddled with errors and clearly hadn't been checked by anyone. Not only could I not put my name to something like that, but they shouldn't either. As aspiring experts, intent on positioning themselves as formidable names in their industries, publishing a dripping wad of poorly organised thought would do more damage to their reputations than good.
4. I've also been studying the art of creating excellent video blogs, in order to raise the standard of my own, and I've noticed the same thing: some YouTube examples are phenomenally well-scripted and a pleasure to watch, and they rack up thousands of views. Others have been unleashed on the world seemingly while still getting dressed. These latter clearly did not enjoy the benefit of expert checking or feedback and it shows in their low viewership. It's no mystery why some online personalities go viral, while others go nowhere.
Whether it be in writing, filming, or any other form of professional output, we are generally blind to our own faults. We know what it should say, what it should look like, and our imaginations fill in the blanks. Our viewers and reviewers, however, enjoy no such compensation. They see our work as it actually is, and sometimes, that’s embarrassing.
Top level experts are sufficiently humble - and sufficiently aware of their blind-spots - to seek out professional feedback. And by doing so, they position themselves on a higher level. When they unleash their baby on the world, their baby wins prizes and adoration, rather than getting them kicked out of the restaurant for misbehaviour.
Watch Douglas Kruger's short video clip: My top tip for getting your book published: https://youtu.be/x5d5Fzz3rog
Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and author of ‘Own Your Industry - How to Position Yourself as an Expert,’ and ‘Relentlessly Relevant - 50 Ways to Innovate.’ He speaks and trains all over the world, helping brands to understand the ‘how-to’s’ of innovation and to become top-of-mind in their industries. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za, follow him on Twitter: @douglaskruger, or email firstname.lastname@example.org