When Good Enough is Perfect

Perception is reality

Perception is reality

My nearly-4 year old daughter taught me another valuable lesson this weekend – how good enough can actually be perfect.

She is currently into Disney’s Little Einsteins.  Rather than go buy more crappy pieces of plastic, and inspired by a recent Wired article on a Japanese paper plane that broke the world flight record (27.9 seconds and BTW, they have the design for the Sky King in the magazine and it is awesome!), I decided try to make the toys instead.  I used to love making models as a kid.  Apparently I still do.

Anyway, dug around the counter and found the glitter-encrusted, dry-lentil filled plastic ball you see in the photo.  We glued on some paper, colored and cut-out the rotor blade and feet from an amazon.com box, and held it all together with a rubber band.  Total build time was maybe 10 minutes and she’s been playing non-stop with it, a purple plane and a red rocket we made ever since.

If it had taken longer, she would have become bored. Making it together was so much fun (you might just be able to see that she chose to decorate it with ink stamps) and we did our little bit to save the planet as well.  This was just good enough for her to associate with the green helicopter in the show, and nothing more.  This crude toy and its effectiveness reminded me of IDEO’s preference for rapid prototyping. If I had obsessed over building a perfect replica, it never would have been finished, or I would have been mortified if she broke it.

Call it serendipity, but the same issue of Wired included Robert Capps thought provoking article, the good enuf rvlutn, which uses the examples of Flip in video cameras, Predator in military aircraft, MP3s in music formats, skype for calls, netbooks for computers, etc, to argue that accessibility and ease-of-use in a low-cost “good enough” solution trump perfection for most of us.  In the case of kid’s toys, I couldn’t agree more.


2 thoughts on “When Good Enough is Perfect

  1. I would even argue that, with the exception of the artistic parts of Marketing (copy of an ad, design of a site…), most of marketing is ruled by the good-enough rule or as I often refer to the 80/20 Pareto Law.

    • Olivier,

      Thanks for kicking off the discussion! You’ve got me thinking about those “artistic parts” and wondering if the rule applies to them as well – I recall many long meetings debating to the nth degree copy for an ad, when it was clear that for most of the audience that effort was clearly in the realm of diminishing returns. Same goes in architecture, hours and hours fussing over details that only another architect would notice. To counter this, there are clearly examples, like the iPhone, where compromise over design would not have yielded such a great result. Where I’m heading is: do we want a good enough rule for the feature set, but perfection for the execution of the design? That is, work out what people really need (no unnecessary features) and then execute that minimum feature set brilliantly?


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