The problem with being good enough

I’ve worked closely with a lot of companies over the years. Often I hear them expressing the desire to just make the work good enough. People feel there is too much to do to reach perfection on any one project. So they aim for good enough to get by.

The problem with good enough is you are always playing from behind, never ahead. Good enough for today is what it takes to get by. It is not building for tomorrow.

Today’s market place is close. The gap between success and bankruptcy is as thin as ever. Typically I see the difference between the best and the companies is how quickly you can present new ideas and how well you do it.

Good enough is playing catch up. It is filling in product gaps your competition is beating you on. It is just getting something out the door into the hands of the customer with minimal effort to present your products. It is not cutting edge, it is not well thought out and packaged perfectly.

Take an example. In the middle of the 90’s there were two big computer companies. One worked on a principle of good enough, the other asked “how can we be better”. By the end of the decade one saw their stock price through the roof, the other was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Those two companies? Apple and Microsoft. Although if you just look at things today you would not guess which company was which. Apple struggled with poor products that failed to inspire anyone and at twice the price. They constantly were trying to fill in product gaps based on what the competition offered. Microsoft tried to deliver things unexpected and unique in a creative and meaningful way. They succeeded.

That is only half the story of course. Apple on the verge of bankruptcy hired back their legendary CEO. He began creating products that left the rest of the industry to catch up and fill their own product gaps against Apple. When it came to presenting the products nothing was ever good enough. He was meticulous. The question was always how can we do it better.

Microsoft, with the fat bank account, began just relaunching the same old products. Nothing new, nothing inspired. Then they presented them in a way that was just good enough. The result? A number of botched product launches and poor presentations (see Windows ME & Vista).

The difference in winning and losing in a competitive market is often times not trying to be good enough, but challenging yourself to constantly and consistently push to do better.

Posted in Strategy

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