Opinion: Good enough


When is good enough, well, good enough? Every one of us holds an internal standard that allows us to call an assigned task complete. Some will obsess over every detail to a point of absurdity well beyond any hoped for return on the effort. Others will walk away with the job better described as half-started than as half-done. Is there a benchmark that we can identify to measure a duty finished?

Some of us come to know the principle outlined in software development (I’d argue that it applies to almost any start-up organization or nascent product) that the work is done when a consumer market decides that enough value is created by the invention in its currently “incomplete” form to justify its cost and to therefore buy it. To continue to expend resources that do not increase the value to the customer in proportion to the required increase in price is bad business. It seems simple enough.

Yet in our personal lives, so many of us obsess over the minutia of our daily routines, ever mired in detail and “improvements” that could scarcely show a return in the quality of living were we to be around for a 1,000 years. Don’t misunderstand. Excellence matters. We exist in a competitive world with an ever increasing interpretation of perfection. But, are we deploying our attentions to the specifics that matter to those that we care about around us? Or, are we indulging in our own vanity in assuming that “our” perfection will suit anyone else?

It is a thorny challenge. Seeking distinction through hard-work and innovation is virtuous. We should celebrate it. But also, knowing when to stop expending resources on something that is ostensibly as good as it is going to get, likewise, is virtuous. The trick is to reconcile the two.