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From Cupcakes to Computers: Excellence Wins

The world’s most innovative companies—big or small—all have one thing in common: an unwavering drive for excellence.

Excellence and innovation go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

Whether making something as simple as cakes or as complex as computers, success comes from a passion for innovation and an uncompromising commitment to excellence. Martha Stewart didn’t build an empire of crafts and confectionary by cutting corners or scrimping on butter. Apple didn’t grow to the point of having more cash than the U.S. government by settling for good enough.

They pushed boundaries. They set the bar exceedingly high. They never accepted defeat. And they attained the unattainable. They made excellence and innovation the core of their mission.

When we talk about excellence and innovation, it doesn’t have to mean groundbreaking, world-changing products or services. Even the smallest idea can be executed with great creativity. Anyone can innovate at any level.

Back to cakes for a moment. Simple stuff— flour, butter, eggs, sugar, baked in a round pan, stacked and frosted—largely unchanged until 1796, when a woman named Amelia Simmons published a recipe in her book American Cookery that called for baking cakes in small cups. This was novel. A redefinition of something so satisfyingly functional it seemingly needed no improvement. But how much more enticing did the cake become with that simple shift in form? And then, a few decades later, when another cookbook author, Eliza Leslie coined the endearing term cupcake, the treat took on a life of its own.

Today, innovation happens much faster in the world of cakes and especially computers. We now live in a world where one can walk up to a machine on the sidewalk and extract a delicious marvel of handheld confectionary. Sprinkles debuted the cupcake ATM in 2012, and while cupcake interest has waned slightly since, can there be any doubt that we are a nation in constant pursuit of sweet, sweet excellence?

Sometimes we want to just get things done. We have deadlines. We have metrics. We have quotas. But when we put quantity above quality, there is always a price to be paid. Fast, cheap, excellent: one of these things is not like the others. And we all know which one.

There may be no such thing as perfection, but we get close to it when we subscribe to the belief that good enough, isn’t. When we dedicate to excellence.

It may take longer. It may require more risk. It may drain you of every ounce of energy. But great innovation and true success require total dedication to excellence. Commit, and the rewards are great.

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