The “good enough” principle originates from the world of software design. The idea is that people will use products that are good enough for their requirements, despite the availability of more advanced technology.
You could go so far as to say that most products today are over-engineered – with extra functionality that most people never use.
In many ways though, the ‘good enough’ approach is counter-intuitive. Most of us were brought up to strive for perfection. We wouldn’t dream of releasing a product that is not the best it could be.
The hard truth is that it takes a lot of time and energy to achieve perfection, and often, by the time you do, the product is out of date, or a competitor has beat you to market. The quest for perfection can really set you back.
The good enough principle says that customers (or early adopters at least) will use a product that meets an important need, as long as the product is good enough. In other words, it doesn’t need world-class functionality, it doesn’t even need to look that good. It simply has to do a great job at meeting the basic need it was created to meet.
Of course, diving in and creating a new product or piece of software when it hasn’t been fully defined is daunting. But the beauty of the good enough approach is that you get real customer data and feedback early, so you can build and tweak the product as you go, creating a much more robust final product.
Creating this ‘minimum viable product’ – which should be robust enough to go to market, with just enough functionality to keep customers happy – is an important part of the so-called ‘Agile’ methodology. Once the product is out there and has been used and tested, a new layer of functionality can be added, tested and released to market. And so the process continues. This enables you to change direction at short notice to respond to customer feedback.
Google is a great example of a big company that has mastered the art of ‘good enough’. It constantly introduces new services and products, which often remain in beta for years, even after millions of people start using them.
By getting customer feedback early on, Google can make incremental improvements to the products until they meet the need they were designed for, at the level that Google has become famous for.
The good enough approach also enables faster, better decision making – vital in the ever-shifting world of customer demands and economic conditions. Product development is not like building a road or a bridge, where there are few variables. Things change all the time, sometimes at the speed of light, and if you miss the opportunity to react fast, you could lose out.
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Never compromise on quality
It’s important to remember that shifting the focus away from perfectionism never means that quality can be compromised. When we work towards ‘good enough’ and early launches, we should do so by doing less, not doing worse.
It’s like building a racing car with all the latest technology and accessories. If every piece of the engine isn’t in working condition, the car is completely useless. You’d be better off in a go-kart. At least it would get you from A to B!
How good is good enough?
‘Good enough’ might seem like a subjective measure, and in many ways it is, but a product should be considered good enough when the positive consequences of creating it outweigh the negative consequences.
Getting the balance right requires a solid understanding of agile development processes, the problem at hand, and the tradeoffs available to you at every stage of development.
Discipline and communication are key to keeping the project on track over what can often be a lengthy development process. But most importantly, never forget the requirements of your intended market.
It works in business
I have seen that the good enough approach works well within a business too. We have adopted the agile approach internally at Stone Three in all business divisions, and have found that it leads to much greater collaboration and productivity.
Rather than slaving away on a project in isolation until it’s ‘perfect’, we encourage staff to share their work as soon as they think it is good enough.