Misunderstanding the good enough revolution 7


I attended a (very good) conference this week, and a debate sprang to life regarding “the good enough revolution”. Critical voices were heard. I felt that there were a few misunderstandings circulating in the debate, possibly due to the mix of marketing people and software people. They don’t necessarily read the same books, or live in the same reality. As I simultaneously belong to neither and both of these categories (if I had a business card I wouldn’t know what title to put there), I thought I’d share my thoughts on this with you.

Placed in a Product Development context the “good enough” concept is not hard to understand. As I have described earlier – the Agile mindset is to cut back on the scope side of a project triangle, in favor of delivering value at a certain set point in time. This means that all requested features might not be present in the first release. Naturally, a “good enough” mindset works very well in this context, if for no other reason than that it can help prevent “feature creep”.

This mindset also encourages a “release early” concept, based on the belief that the sooner customers get to fiddle with your product, the sooner you can gather information about the value of what you are building and how the users and “the market” feel about your efforts. This belief is supported by basic information theory, and I subscribe to the idea. After early release, continuous cyclic improvement follows, and iteration after iteration you improve your product – based on feedback – striving to reach the Product Vision.

The misunderstanding here is that the Product Vision, or even the whole business idea, should also be surrounded by a “good enough” mentality. Obviously, it shouldn’t be. And I’m not sure if anyone really has suggested that it should?

But I can see where the confusion comes from. In the debate, I felt the spirit of Seth Godin hovering between the lines of the “good enough” bashers rhetoric (don’t be good enough – be remarkable). But even Seth Godin is paradoxical when dealing with the subject.

Godin has in many books propagated that we reach for the stars, that we strive to be “remarkable” or make remarkable things (Tribes, Purple Cow), but he also propagates that we deliver (Linchpin). Because what we do is “art” and art only happens when our efforts meet the outside world. The last section represents a debatable, but interesting point.

It boils down to this: We have to deliver. We have to throw ourselves out there. The good enough mentality is a very helpful idea that can help us get there. An early focus on perfection will severely damage the work process, your spirit will be crushed, and you will run out of money. So start with good enough – find your feedback loops and then go conquer the world with your remarkable vision.


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7 thoughts on “Misunderstanding the good enough revolution

  • Bjorn Lindqvist

    As so often is the case, the IT industry makes things harder by tryoing to come up with cool expressions or acronyms.
    The expression 'good enough' may very well have a negative ring to it for many people.
    What is really meant when someone says 'good enough' in this context is 'not all at once' or 'step by step' or 'piecemeal'. Ooops! 'Piecemeal' is actually used ! Piecemeal development is exactly this; don't try to decide everything at once, do it gradually. So instead of confusing people with 'good enough', we could just say 'gradual' development or 'gradual' project evolution, or…… well, you get the idea.

    /Björn Lindqvist

  • Thomas Lindqvist

    Indeed. Other variations on the same theme include incremental development, evolutionary design and the KISS (keep it simple stupid) acronym. In the context of business, I believe it as this article in Wired magazine that set the ball rolling on “good enough revolution” as a concept:

    http://www.wired.com/gadgets/miscellaneous/maga

    As I say, I believe it to be the blend of software people and marketing / business people that creates the confusion. It's all semantics. Just semantics. As usual.

  • Tobias Fors

    Thomas: you might want to check out Russell Ackoff's writings on “idealized design”. I think you'd like it. In essence, what you do is start by building agreement on what your ideal looks like. This is often easier than getting agreement on practical details of implementation. With the ideal clear, you can then proceed to try and get as close to it as possible: this is where implementation and “good enough” comes in. While you may have to settle for a good enough solution for now, the ideal is still up there, challenging you to press on into the future you really want.

  • Thomas

    Hi Tobias. Sorry for the tardy reply, I've been busy doing nothing for a while. 🙂 Thank's a lot for commenting! I am not familiar with the work of Mr. Ackoff, but after a quick search I found that I should be. His writings sounds like a “must read”. Thank's for pointing me in this direction – the value of such pointers cannot be overstated.

    All the best,
    Thomas