Librarian by Day Bobbi Newman | I'm not that kind of librarian

Is Good Enough good enough?

09.02.2009 · Posted in Best Practices, Libraries, Worst Practices

I don’t know, but it’s what I’m thinking about thanks to Jason Griffey

Think about the services in your library, and the amount of effort and resources poured into making your services as good as they can possibly be. What if good enough is really enough, and instead we should be expanding our range of services instead of seeking perfection in any single one? How does that change the way libraries operate?

He cites a Wired magazine article – The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine which he quotes

…it happens to be a recurring theme in Good Enough products. You can think of it this way: 20 percent of the effort, features, or investment often delivers 80 percent of the value to consumers. That means you can drastically simplify a product or service in order to make it more accessible and still keep 80 percent of what users want—making it Good Enough…

Aaron Schmidt responded in the comments

This is great, mostly because just yesterday I was thinking about just the opposite! My thoughts aren’t fully formed but my basic line of thinking is that good enough services are probably wholly unremarkable and don’t leave any sort of impression on our users. Doing Things Right (even if we have to do fewer things) with pride and quality, on the other hand, could make libraries stand out and make our users admire us.

I admire and respect both Jason and Aaron, so as a proper little librarian, I hurried off to do some reading to decide if I agreed with either, both or neither of them.Turns out I’m still not certain.

Sometimes good enough is good enough. Insisting on great product can mean you miss the boat, time wise. It can mean you’re so invested in the finished product that you’re resistant to changing it.  It could mean you produce a Porsche when a Saturn could produce the same result, getting you from point A to point B.

Let’s say you can spend a lot of time and money developing a new system or product.  Since were talking about libraries and it’s timely lets say it’s a new service that helps patrons find a new job. You could insist that you’ve covered all your bases, considered every possible problem, question and need before you make it available. But while you’re doing that there are people who need your help who aren’t getting it.  Or you could make it available when it’s good enough. People will have access to a service they need and you’ll learn as you go what needs improvement. Remember holding on to it until it’s perfect doesn’t guarantee you’ll wont run into problems later. In this case, as long as you’re willing to make modifications as you go along, and you should be, it is good enough.

I can also see problems with doing things that are  good enough. Patrons who encounter problems and obstacles to their goals may become frustrated and never come back. They wont be around to know when you’ve improved the system or service.

So I’m not sure where the line is.  What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Is Good Enough good enough?”

  1. I think you made several good points. To me, it’s more important to offer services that your customers need and are searching for. You right, as you go along various issues will come up and you’ll have to addres them. We’ve all had to evolve and change to meet the needs of those we serve – it’s a process. I think you do your research and offer your services but always be on the on look out for ways to improve.My two cents:)

  2. I think both are right, it just depends on the service. Some services fall if the good is good enough category; while others won’t really work for you unless you do them really well. Or another way to look at it is that the soft stuff can be different shades of grey: good, super, awesome! but most of the tech stuff has to be 100% right or it won’t work. (all the 1′s and 0′s must be in the right place)…

    maybe?

  3. [...] may be a case where good enough works. I can’t recall ever seeing a Flickr photo with a perfect attribution and the world [...]

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