Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Downside of Good

This is an excerpt from the Seth Godin book, Linchpin.

The Downside of Good
Being pretty good is extremely easy these days. Building a pretty good web site, for example, is significantly cheaper and faster and easier than building a pretty good storefront was twenty years ago. Same goes for writing a pretty good email message, one that can compare with something from a giant corporation, or shipping a package across the country.
The record you can cut in your basement or the food you can prepare with ingredients from the local market--all pretty good. You can buy a world-class CD player for twenty-nine dollars and hire a great lawyer by investing in a few clicks and a phone call.
Employees are encouraged to deliver products and services and inputs that are good. Good as in within the boundaries defined by the boss. Showing up at the beginning of your shift and staying to the end is good. Meeting spec is good. Answering the phone in a reasonable amount of time is good.
The problem with meeting expectations is that it's not remarkable. It won't change the recipient of your work, and it's easy to emulate (which makes you easy easy to replace). As a result of the tsunami of pretty good (and the persistence of really lousy), the market for truly exceptional is better than ever. That's what I want if I hire someone for more than what the market will bear -- someone exceptional.
So yes, good is bad, if bad means "not a profitable thing to aspire to." And perfect is bad, because you can't top perfect. The solution lies in seeking out something that is neither good nor perfect. You want something remarkable, nonlinear, game changing, and artistic.
Work is a chance to do art. Good art is useless and banal. No one crosses the street to buy a good art, or becomes loyal to a good artist.
If you can't be remarkable, perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can. If your organization skipped a month's catalog because you didn't have anything great to put in it, what would happen the next month? Would the quality and user delight of your product line improve?
Raising the bar is easier than it looks, and it pays for itself. If your boss won't raise your bar, you should.
Are we raising the bar at Franklin Regional? Are you raising the bar in your classroom or are you merely being good?
Just a thought....

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