Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Good enough as a power for good

This month in IndieWeb Carnival, Aaron invited us to think about what’s “good enough” and what ramifications can it have on quality:

Personally, I think there's a lot to be said about it, both as a phrase that people say, a mentality, comments on the history that leads to good enough instead of excellent... and of course how our own language and ideals have been warped a bit to not be able to recognise good from bad quality. Additionally, it is also because the theme is open to refutation, as there's also cases where quality is actually going up-- though there are discussions there about whether it's localised to specific areas or specialisations, or relatively global across entire domains or cultures.

Aaron wrote about various aspects of “Good enough” that he considers negative consequences of adopting such mindset. In my entry here, I want to take a different perspective and look at it from the positive point of view as I believe it to have a lot of good in it.

There is only ever “good enough”

To get us into the position, I’ll start with a perspective shift. What we create in this world is never perfect. It is practically impossible to reach a perfect result, often because the world around us is always changing and we are always changing.

So every time we make something and release it to the world for others to see, it’s “good enough”. The question is just where do we draw the line: what is good enough for me, us, you, humanity, the world and the universe. Once we accept that, we can have a fruitful discussion of different ways to decide where the line should be drawn.

I also don’t believe the “good enough” thinking to be in conflict with “excellence” thinking but rather as an accelerator for it.

Done is the engine of more

I love the 13th item on the Cult of Done Manifesto: "Done is the engine of more”.

We could ruminate on something we’re working on until eternity and always consider it to be “not good enough” to be finished and released. The manifesto encourages adopting a mindset of creating things, finishing them and using that momentum to improve existing and to create new.

This momentum also makes it easier to make things better. I find it easier to add small improvements on top of something that exists rather than starting with an empty canvas. And while those small improvements accumulate over time, someone is gaining the benefits of the imperfect, incomplete but usable piece throughout its life.

Good enough as seen in agile development

One way “good enough” can lead to better results is if we look at it through the framing of agile software development. A key principle in agile is welcoming change and being able to adopt to it. On each step, if we build what is “good enough” but not more than that, we gain the ability to be flexible, to change as the world around us changes.

By creating just what is needed at a time, we speed up the feedback cycle (I for one love a tight, quick feedback cycle) and waste less time, effort and resources in creating the unnecessary. Phrased like that sounds very commercial but I do believe the thought also works in more creative journeys as well. As we create, we discover what works and what doesn’t, what supports the big picture and the story we’re telling and what doesn’t.

By making progress through smallest meaningful increments we can, we often end up with much better outcomes than trying to create something perfect before releasing it to the world.

An act of mental health

Creating high quality work or creative pieces is valuable and I’m not saying we should make things sub-par. But there becomes a point where the improvements by work diminish as we get closer to the perfect. Pareto principle, coined by Joseph M. Muran in the 1940s is an observation that in a lot of cases, especially in business, 80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs.

Perfectionism can be such a burden. As a recovering perfectionist, adopting various “good enough” measures in my life and projects can keep me from spiralling into the never-ending wild goose chase which leads to stress, anxiety and imposter syndrome without any useful gains through improvements.

Finding our own “good enough”s in the world is a gift we can give to ourselves.

Creative exhaust and the residual impact

In his TEDx talk Creative exhaust, the power of being open by default, Brad Frost talks about the value of being open in sharing the work being done.

Among other things, he talks about a project he and his wife worked on for a local food bank. He talks about how they decided to share not only the outcome but the work and process that happened on their path towards the outcome. And he discovered the impact of this by-product that he calls creative exhaust. Other people picked up ideas and implementations from what they shared and the impact become way larger than just the impact of a single food bank having their website redesigned.

I always encourage people to learn in public and build in public and to share the incomplete, imperfect work. Not only does putting things out there help yourself to gain more clarity, new ideas and better direction, it can help others who discover what you do as they gain inspiration, ideas or even solutions to problems they are stuck with.

Your turn!

This was my take on the topic. If you have a blog of your own, I encourage you to participate!

Head over to Aaron’s announcement post for instructions on how to participate. What I really love about IndieWeb Carnival is that it brings together people from various different backgrounds and life situations to write about a shared topic.

I will be hosting the Carnival next month! My chosen topic will be creative environments and you can expect to hear more about it next week as I publish my announcement post.

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