The Good Enough Principle

Shawn Wood, Experience Pastor at Seacost Church wrote a post a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. His topic: The Good Enough Principle. Later that week I read an article in Wired about the same thing. There seems to be a movement afoot to make things good enough.

Shawn Wood, Experiences Pastor at Seacost Church wrote a series of posts a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. His topic: The Good Enough Line. Later that week I read an article in Wired about a similar concept. There seems to be a movement afoot to make things good enough.

Now, if you’ve read this blog at all before, you know that I’m all about doing it right. I aim for excellence in what I do. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Lately though, I’ve started wondering if good enough is in fact, good enough.

The Wired article I mentioned referenced a study done by Stanford University. They have been testing incoming freshmen to see which they prefer; the sound of CDs or MP3s. They are played the same song twice--once from the CD, once from an MP3. Interestingly enough, over the last few years the trend has been to prefer MP3s. Audio engineers everywhere are now up in arms, but as it turns out, MP3s are good enough.

The article also talked about the 20/80 principle. In the church, we’ve hijacked that phrase and say that 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. However, the phrase originally stood for 20% of the effort gets you 80% of the results. Put another way, to get to the final 20% of results, it takes 4 times as much effort as the first 80%. My experience indicates that the same applies to dollars, at least generally (though it’s probably more like 60/90).

Examples of Good Enough are everywhere. When I started in video production, the golden standard was “Broadcast Quality.” Images that were broadcast over the air were the pinnacle of excellence. Obsessive engineers spent hours tweaking Betacam SP decks to perfection. If you were trying to sell a new piece of gear, you slapped “Broadcast Quality” on the sell sheet.

Today however, Broadcast Quality means whatever image we can get on the screen. Though we now have HD cameras that make absolutely beautiful images (and put the Broadcast Quality images of old to shame), CNN, Fox and other networks regularly broadcast cell phone video. Why? Because it’s good enough. It tells the story. When we can’t get a hi-def camera to a remote part of the world, a cell phone is better than no image at all--it’s good enough.

The reason for the shift from highly-tweaked near perfect video to jerky, grainy and out of focus cell phone video is simple; we have shifted emphasis to different measures of quality. Rather than spot-on color, we now emphasize getting an image on the screen.

Going back to the CD versus MP3 debate (and throw vinyl LPs in there if you want), the reason we have a rise in the acceptance of MP3s is because the qualities we now value are portability--the ability to listen to our music wherever we are, and sharing. MP3s make that easier, and the quality of the music is good enough.

So that’s where we are today in the world. What does that mean to us in the church? That is the topic of the next post.