Is Adequate Good Enough?

Then again, industry pundit and entrepreneur the late Adam Osborne, founder of the late Osborne Computer Corporation, used to say “adequate is good enough.” Have you ever had one of those projects that stalled in endless revisions and rewrites? It was never quite good enough, or maybe it was good enough but not great?

Here’s another of the paradoxes I love about business. Seth Godin today writes “is good enough good enough?” And I get it, he makes an excellent point. Reaching for more creates more and produces more and excellence is so much better than just good enough. At the same time, sometimes people get lost in the struggle, and in the name of excellence, we get nothing. Nothing is good enough.

Yes, delightful paradox. Are you one of those people who has commitment problems? No, not with personal relationships, but with getting projects done. Is there always that nagging worry that it could be better, it’s not quite right? If you just had one more go at it, or another focus group, or maybe that last rewrite, then it would be okay. Meanwhile, the world goes by, the market window is missed, things fall apart.

And then there’s the problem of hitting moving targets. You get 80% done on something when some new trend emerges, so you pull it back to 50%, then work up again to 80%, but time has passed and another new trend emerges. Get it done. Get it out there. Ship it.

So here’s the paradox. Even if I seem to be saying the opposite, Seth is right too. I love what he’s saying:

“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.”

“If you redefined the objective to be, “makes some people uncomfortable, changes the entire competitive landscape and is truly remarkable in that many of the key people we reach feel compelled to talk about it,” what would happen?”

He suggests three consequences. First, “it would require significant risk-taking.” Second, “it’s exhausting.” Third, “it means that the boss and the boss’s boss are unlikely to give you much cover.”

And the fourth consequence — if not the first or second — is an increased risk of getting nothing done while you’re aiming for the great beyond.

Here again is what I love about business: it’s all in the specifics, the case by case, the human judgment, not the general rules. Paradox.

— Tim


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