Good Enough

A product (result, accomplishment, service, technology, whatever) that isn't great, or TheBest, but it is sufficient to the stated goal. You don't want or need to spend more on something better.

A can opener can be good enough. It doesn't need to be a SwissArmyKnife.

The secret is to know "good enough" for what. If all you are doing is opening cans, you do not need a SwissArmyKnife. But if you want to be ready for a number of expected tasks for which the SwissArmyKnife is designed, you do need it.

As a consumer, there often isn't any real choice but to settle for what the OEM calls "good enough," or do without.

As a consumer, you vote with your pocketbook. If the OEM junk isn't good enough then you wait for somebody else to produce something that is.

How, exactly, does 'waiting' equate to 'voting'? It's amusing how blind naive faith in fallacious market principles leads people to make such inane statements.

Unless you intend to force someone to make your Dream Doohickey, or you are competent enough to make it yourself (doubtful, given what you just said), there is no alternative. (Unless you happen to believe in magic pixies.)

HerbertSimon got a Nobel prize for economics for the more general case of "satisficing" - working on something until you have a good enough resolution, then stop (as opposed to the alternative of assuming people look at all options and evaluate each one for effectiveness, picking the best).


Professor Simon challenged the classical economic theory that economic behavior was essentially rational behavior in which decisions were made on the basis of all available information with a view to securing the optimum result possible for each decision maker.

Instead, Professor Simon contended that in today's complex world individuals cannot possibly process or even obtain all the information they need to make fully rational decisions. Rather, they try to make decisions that are good enough and that represent reasonable or acceptable outcomes.

He called this less ambitious view of human decision making "bounded rationality" or "intended rational behavior" and described the results it brought as "satisficing."

Only in the field of economics, where the criterion for accepting a theory is primarily whether it supports the status quo rather than whether it comports with reality, could something so blatantly obvious earn one a Nobel Prize.

A software project that leaves most of the bug fixing to the end will have one interpretation of good enough. One that leaves the least valuable features to the end will have quite another.

Sorry, that's a RedHerring. We're not talking about the quality of a product as measured by conformance to requirements. (Anydamnthing not meeting the requirements is NonFunctionalGear?, aka NFG.) We're talking about "good enough" as specifying the requirements in light of the larger world in which the product is to be used. "Good enough" says that, past a certain point, we don't need additional functionality or speed or capacity. Good enough for medical treatment machines is different from good enough for electric dog polishers.

I have an IRL example of this: facing a critical design review by the government agency that was ultimately paying for our pizza, our manager gave us a pep-talk that included "GoodEnoughIsGoodEnough?!" ... it was like a slow long fart. My take was this: since we rarely reach our aim, then to aim for good enough is to end up with seriously mediocre; to aim for really good is, perhaps, to attain good enough. -- BenTremblay

An argument that doesn't necessarily follow. If we consider the EightyTwentyRule; (or NinetyTenRule if you prefer), then we have a lot better chance of reaching the EightyPercentSolution? than the perfect solution. Aiming for eighty does not mean that we will invariably end up with 64%; just as we don't have to aim for 125% to reach 100%. It just doesn't work that way

Hello, George Orwell. Now we have a page trying to state that GoodEnoughIsNotGoodEnough. Good enough is sufficient. Any effort used to extend beyond good enough raises costs and extends schedule; in other words efforts to go beyond good enough are self defeating.

Uhh, hang on. It doesn't appear that anybody has tried to say "not good enough" is "good enough" anywhere on this page. Notice the statement about additional capacity beyond the immediate need above.

Note the following quotes from this page. They certainly seem to imply that good enough is not good enough.

"Whether good enough should be settled for is another question, but as a consumer, there often isn't any real choice but to settle or do without."

That doesn't imply anything about 'good enough', since it explicitly says that that's another question.

"... to aim for good enough is to end up with seriously mediocre ..."

That doesn't imply anything about 'good enough', only about the ability to reach targets.

Yes, we need to talk about "enough" and "sufficiency" to clarify this.

Note: the above quote is founded on the assumption that one can never achieve that which one sets out to do. This is not a truth.

It's a generalization that is true often enough to be worth considering. If we restrict outselves to statements that are 100% true in all possible contexts, we will have very little to say.

Keep in mind that "good enough" is only good enough for so long, unless of course the ease with which it can be improved is also good enough so that most anyone can maintain its good enoughness. For example, most any computer hardware is only good enough for 6 or 7 years at the very most, and much hardware isn't good enough anymore after as little as 3 years. Hardware becomes unsupportable on new OS platforms, drivers don't have the hooks required by applications, etc., etc.

Some things are meant to be used and disposed of. Other things are meant to be kept for a long time. What is GoodEnough depends on what the thing is.

It should be kept in mind, however, that sometimes a solution that was only meant to last for a few years, ends up lasting for decades--and this in true for both hardware and software. Once a solution exists, and is GoodEnough, that is often enough of reason to DontTouchIt? least, until Y2K problems rear their ugly head. -- Alpheus

Ultimately it could be argued that even perfection is only good enough for today's requirements. What may be perfect now may be catastrophically insufficient tomorrow. Or is that unsatisficing?

The requirements for all products will change with time. Good enough is a snapshot of the solution to a problem at a given time, and can not be held up as the example of completeness or sufficiency for the rest of eternity.

Come to think of it, this Wiki is a prime example of everlasting good enoughness. One outstanding exception to the temporal nature of "good enough."

You have very low standards.

Surely "good enough," by definition, is enough? As was mentioned above, the "enough" indicates "sufficient," meaning we have met the minimum requirement. If we wanted the best then good enough would not be sufficient by definition.

And it should explicitly state so in the requirements. And the schedule should reflect that.

Good enough is only enough when we require nothing more than this. Hence "good enough" only becomes a term with value when we require nothing more than the minimum to meet a specific set of needs. Otherwise we have a situation of GoodEnoughIsNotGoodEnough. That is clearly a fallacy. So, it must follow that good enough is, logically, enough - it has sufficiency.

Of course, sometimes GoodEnoughIsNotGoodEnough becomes true - usually when the requirements are not what the customer(s) want, but the designers think they are. Many products have failed for not being GoodEnough.

Perhaps we need to establish terms here to circumvent this circular argument. Can we define "good enough" as "meeting all minimum requirements"?

The key word is "enough", and many here are taking the obvious interpretation of "bare minimum", verging on "substandard". The key semantic of enough is the implied "for", in other words, the standard, the goal. Before embarking on a project, it is important to envision clear goals, spell out the details of the desired outcome, in as objectively measurable terms as possible, answering the question "how will we know when we're done?" This should be done at the outset, because if it isn't, those invested in the project-as-process and its intrinsic rewards rather than the end result, will want to just continue working on it rather than shipping a result out the door and getting to work on the next important project.

Of course external circumstances may require the goalposts get moved, but that's different from never having the desired outcome spelled out clearly in the first place.

See: WorseIsBetter, TheBestIsTheEnemyOfTheGood, GoodEnoughCrisis, AllRoadsLeadToBeeMinus

Contributors: BenTremblay, MartySchrader ScottJohnson

CategoryRequirements, CategoryIdealism

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