My post last week on Venture Design sparked an interesting discussion about the topic of "good enough" in the world of innovation. Victor Lombardi made this point:
Some recent experience with teaching product development to the "linear
business types" taught me to be careful with explaining the concept of
"good enough." For example, a business analyst I spoke with pointed out
we should only develop a product far enough to exceed customer
expectations; anything further is wasted development money and results in
lower profit margins. To him, this was "good enough" design. But this
thinking can lead to, for example, series of incremental improvements
and leave a company vulnerable to a competitor’s breakthrough design.
Here’s my perspective: "Good Enough" is a worldview. It’s a way of approaching challenges where the appropriate solution path is not obvious. In that situation, 50% accurate information today is an order of magnitude more valuable than 100% accurate data tomorrow, because having that data allows you to take action now, and the act of moving takes you one real step closer to a workable solution — perfectly accurate info is always a day away. Perfection equals paralysis, and the way to reach a more innovative mode of existence is to accept "good enough" as permission to go ahead and get stuff done. Life is short.
In reality, taking a "good enough" approach to developing your offering is the key to reaching greatness. Per Victor’s point above, if you view "good enough" as a one-shot deal and ship a turd to market and leave it there to fester, you’re only fooling yourself into a state of perpetual mediocrity. But, if you say "this is good enough today, and I have a plan for good enough in a week, a month, a year," then you’ll be iterating your way to success, learning all along the way. The first generation iPod was a "good enough" effort done quickly, and it taught Apple a lot about a new (to Apple, at least) marketspace. Subsequent iPod offerings capitalized on those lessons learned — real information from real customers in a real market. The "good enough" worldview allows you to stand on the shoulders of giants of your own making.
(metacool disclaimer: the AMC Pacer pictured above should be used only as an educational example of how a "good enough" offering not tied to a strategic development plan will result it in a mediocre turd. Yes, the Pacer influenced the design of the Porsche 928, but there’s no accounting for taste)