Reply All is a new podcast I’ve been enjoying lately. It’s a “show about the Internet.” Their third episode featured Ethan Zuckerman, an Internet pioneer, apologizing for a very bad thing he did twenty years ago, a thing that really helped to shape the world we live in today. (9Or, at least, the Internet we live with today.))
You should listen to the whole episode – it’s not very long, and it’s embedded below. And it’s good to know our collective Internet history.
Near the end of the episode, at about the 16 minute mark1, Ethan sums up something he’s learned from the story he’s just told. Here’s what he says:
One of the things that I think I’ve learned in all of this is that “good enough” is a really serious problem. So, if you just flat out fail, right, if you do something and it just doesn’t work at all, you can look at it and say that was a fiasco, let’s do something really different.’ If you do something, and it kind of works – it works well enough to support what you were doing, it generates enough revenue to keep the lights on – you tend to get really attached to it, even if it was a pretty lousy solution.
“Good enough” hit me as a concept that gets in the way of, well, plenty of the work I’m doing lately. Schools are, in many ways, “good enough.” They’re limping along. My family relationships? “Good enough.” The training I’m doing for my next race? Heck, even my Angry Birds scores of late2 are “good enough.”
And I wonder what it is that pushes you, me, or anyone to move beyond good enough. What are the factors and forces, aside from sheer will and determination and downright stubbornness, that will move a person or a group past “good enough” and towards “better than ever” or “continuous improvement” or “let’s nuke this whole thing and start over?” How do we move organizations, and ourselves, beyond “good enough” in the places and situations where that matters most?
I’m cool if stubbornness is the right approach. I just wonder if there’re better ways.