Excellence is different from perfection. It doesn’t mean flawless either, or without error.
Everyone will have his or her definition. Usually, it will depend on the context. However, some may favor measuring excellence in results.
I’d say that a path to excellence will be found through a combination of art, craft, and science.
Science here describes the knowledge that will be taught or learned to understand what underpins the activity. It is relevant as it can provide information that is not available through experience or imagination. Much of it is what we are being taught in institutions like schools, colleges, or universities. Some of it comes along with some templates on how to apply the learned science.
What most of this knowledge lacks is experience. The experience of applying science to real-world situations. Inevitably, a learned template will have to be adapted to the situation itself, and figuring out how to deal with it and the lack of knowledge and understanding is necessary. That is where craft comes into play. When people develop their craft, they use the situation, their knowledge, and their willingness to fail in order to achieve a set objective. It is in doing so they transform their understanding of science as used as well as of their task at hand. One can safely say that a majority of our expertise in exercising our craft results from its application.
Many may find that to be sufficient. These are the ones who fail to notice their art. Everyone develops an art of doing his work, it is the unique way they have to exercise their craft. And as they fail to see it, they can’t develop or access it. Noticing it happens through reflection and the desire to learn how one’s results come to exist. It doesn’t lose the focus of what is to be achieved, but it engages with the process of creation and invites curiosity as well as imagination to the table.
Excellence then comes to be the ability to know what one wants despite not knowing how to get there and yet finding a way to it. That is when one’s knowledge of one’s art, craft, and science helpfully contains what one wants within a space that can be imagined despite having never been there yet.
Maybe that’s what Sheralyn Silverstein meant when she wrote the line “If you can dream it, you can do it” for GE. One that has been wrongly attributed to Walt Disney, but he might be the best example of its implementation.