Lego blocks are an example of "good enough" rapid prototyping for physical innovation.Perfect is the enemy of good is an old proverb from Voltaire which asserts that a drive for perfectionism can prevent you from accomplishing a task at all. Especially when a good enough result could be achieved with far less effort. Perfect results are limited by the law of diminishing returns. By setting the bar at perfection you will drive toward escalating costs and timelines in execution.

This Isn’t Natural

This reality runs against the natural tendency of many people and organizations who constantly drive for perfection. Unfortunately, in a world of increasing pace, competition, and disruptive innovation, the drive for perfection is more likely to result in negative returns and a toxic culture than have any positive benefits.

I am a firm believer in radical goals as a mechanism to drive new thought patterns. But in radical goals, you need to be aware that a good result that doesn’t quite achieve the outrageous goal is better than a perfect result in achieving an incremental goal.

As Voltaire suggests, good is better than great in most cases.

Good Enough vs Good

I’m not sure Voltaire’s proverb goes far enough in solving the problem though. Given the world of instant communication, large social networks, and agile product development, we need to focus on “good enough”. Often adequate is all you need to deliver great results.

Google makes a practice of releasing products to the world that aren’t yet perfect.  Most of their products live in Beta for years after the public starts using them.  Google uses a “good enough” model of Innovation and development. They have been able to lead the market, adapt quickly to customer needs, and create massive shareholder wealth with this approach.

Often we spend so much time trying to drive to a perfect or even great solution to a problem, when taking an adequate approach would do. “Good enough” not only provides most of the targeted business value, but also gives valuable insights into the problem itself. As a bonus “good enough” delivers at a fraction of the cost of the good or perfect solution.  Using design concepts like rapid prototyping can deliver great learning value at almost no cost.

Apply “Good Enough” Today

Whether you are working on a product or service problem or innovation, rapid protoyping can provide valuable insights into both the results you can expect from a solution option as well as provide surprising clarity into the problem you’re trying to solve.

Even very basic approaches like Lego or foam construction of a physical model or role playing a service experience can deliver quick results. Rapid prototyping and good old trial and error doesn’t have to be sophisticated (nor should it be in most cases). It just has to be “good enough” to generate new insights.

The Golden Rule

Let the golden rule of problem solving be:

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

But if you truly want to be at the front end of the curve in your industry go one step further and set your golden rule as:

Don’t let good be the enemy of “good enough”

I challenge all leaders to leverage the concept of “Good Enough to Great” with your teams and organizations.  Extraordinary results await you.

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *