Is good enough good enough?

In the last few days I was thinking a lot about the question of good enough.

When do you give up and just stop improving whatever it is your working on and when do you try to create something remarkable and different?

Two references for my thoughts. First, Seth Godin, who writes:

You end up, if you’re talented, with something good enough.

Is that enough? Is good enough enough to win? To change the game? To reinvent your organization and your career? In a crowded market, when all the competition is good enough, not much happens.

Good enough is beyond reproach. It’s safe at the same time it represents quality. Good enough demonstrates effort and insight and ability. People rarely get fired for good enough, which is a shame.

I must admit, I love this approach. Too many little things in life are just plain mediocre. Just because somebody decided that the service, or the design or the product should be only OK. If we really want to make a change, we should not settle for good enough, only for great. To many things are so mediocre, when they should not be.

But then, I think about the importance of picking your battles. And I am reminded, like I so often do, that there are no complete truths in life. Check this post, by Karlyn Morissette:

All too often in higher ed, we get bogged down seeking perfection, when something that is good enough will do just as well.  I can tell horror stories about tying up hours of time from five or six employees in search of the perfect Facebook Ad.  Yes, you heard me right – FACEBOOK AD.  The picture had to be designed just right and the copy had to be written and edited and it had to be mocked up so the client could see what it would actually look like in Facebook, etc.  It was absolutely ridiculous.

All of us have been there. We spend too much time on things that are not really important. Actually when I worked at a law firm, I guess that about 30% of my time was spent on perfecting things that had no real influence in the outcome. How the document looks, if the paper came out of the printer a little smeared, etc. Not that it is not important to produce perfect work. We just need to be realistic sometimes and understand that sometimes, good enough is good enough because it is more important to do stuff than to do them perfectly.

You might think that the question is, how do you decide? Which, I agree, is a very important question. But I actually think there is a question which is even more important. Do you stop to consider? Whatever you decide to go with perfection or good enough is not as important as actually stopping, and taking the time to make that a conscious decision. To weigh the consequences of each path. Don’t do things automatically or just because this is the way everybody does it here. Stop and think. Do I demand perfection? Why? Am I settling for good enough? Why?

I think that most of the time, you would find that the question, is more important than the answer.

Elad

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3 Responses to “Is good enough good enough?”

  1. Jono Barel Says:

    ah, well. Perfections.
    You remember in interviews, those who like to say that “perfectionism” is both their best quality and worst flaw?
    Och.

    You’re actually touching on two subjects, I think. One is the classic 80/20 problem.
    The other, is the problem of “good enough” setting a standard so low it’s tough to beat.
    My nearest and dearest example is housing here in Be’er Sheva.
    I’ve spoken to a few people who are thinking of buying a flat in Be’er Sheva and letting it, “step 3: profit!”.
    They each say “well, if I put some effort into it, touch it up nicely, set it up with some quality furniture, it’ll be an easy sell”.
    Problem is, students consider some pretty crappy apartments “good enough”. You can’t let it for more than the competition, because people won’t pay more. And you can’t let it for the market price, because you’ll eat up your profits with setting it up.
    Ergo, most flats in B.S. are pretty ratty, or really expensive (compared to B.S.)

    Same with other products — so many products and services are “good enough” for what people want and need, that when you come around with an idea of something “better”, it’s often just not revolutionary enough to compete. People are all too willing to settle.

  2. sherfelad Says:

    My dear friend Jono,
    Your observations are priceless, as usual. You are so right referring to the Pareto rule. I guess this is another manifestation of that great rule. How the hell didn’t I think of that.
    Regarding the good enough, you example is valid, but my point is a little different. The fact that the people regard those apartments like they are good enough is part of the problem. This is a self fulfilling prophecy. See the broken windows theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows).
    But I am not sure your argument is fully valid. Do everybody really look for good enough? You are telling me that with all the students coming into Beer Sheva, there are no students who will be willing to pay a little bit more for a decent (not luxurious) apartment? I find that hard to believe. The problem is it is going against the norm. It is about taking risk. And it so much easier to choose the good enough option. I am not sure that is the best option.
    About the products, well… that depends on what better is. And the problem is, that the remarkable of the past is the good enough of today… we have to keep trying inventing the new remarkable, even if some of them will not hold.
    Always happy to read your comments.
    Elad


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