The Curse of Incremental Improvement

Some of the “greatest business decisions” of all time came about because someone invested the time and effort needed to make a product what it should be instead of just good enough.   Check out a few cautionary paragraphs on   The curse of incremental improvement.     

     by blogger,  Seth Godin       http://www.sethgodin.typepad.com
In an industrial, competitive culture, most things are just barely good enough.

Cell phone calls, if they were any worse, would be unusable. MP3 files sound not nearly as good as they could. Car mileage goes up, but really slowly. When something makes a huge leap (like the iPad did), it’s headline news, because it’s so rare.

The market will switch to a competitor when the competitor is just good enough to warrant switching (I know that’s obvious, but it’s worth stating). As a result, R&D departments ship a product out the door the moment it is just barely good enough to grab enough share to pay for itself. The thought of, for example, working on the CD for six more months before declaring it ‘done’ would have been considered short-term economic stupidity. As a result, we are saddled with thirty years of sub-par music–if they’d just held on a bit longer, it would all sound so much better.

The challenge kicks in for the individual or organization who thinks what they’ve launched is just barely good enough–and it’s not. Prematurely declaring that it’s done means that your incremental improvement doesn’t seem important to anyone else. And so you flop.

Better to make it better than it needs to be.