Friday, September 4, 2009

The Good Enough Revolution

Allen Kupetz sent over a piece from Wired Magazine that I’ve been forwarding around to folks interested in entrepreneurship here at Syracuse University. The article, The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple is Just Fine is getting some interesting comments from faculty and friends. Take the time to read it; it’s rather long but provides some things to think about for those of us who are creating the next product or getting ready to kick-out a great new service. It’s telling us that time is a limited and precious resource, and that the more complex a device is, the less we’re going to use it or maybe even want it.

The Flip's (video camera) success stunned the industry, but it shouldn't have. It's just the latest triumph of what might be called Good Enough tech. Cheap, fast, simple tools are suddenly everywhere. We get our breaking news from blogs, we make spotty long-distance calls on Skype, we watch video on small computer screens rather than TVs, and more and more of us are carrying around dinky, low-power netbook computers that are just good enough to meet our surfing and emailing needs. The low end has never been riding higher. So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they're actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as "high-quality."

And it's happening everywhere. As more sectors connect to the digital world, from medicine to the military, they too are seeing the rise of Good Enough tools like the Flip. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit.

The good news is that this trend is ideally suited to the times. As the worst recession in 75 years rolls on, it's the light and nimble products that are having all the impact—exactly the type of thing that lean startups and small-scale enterprises are best at. And from impact can come big sales. "When the economy went south before Christmas last year, we worried that sales would be affected," says Pure Digital's Fleming-Wood. "But we sold a ton of cameras. In fact, we exceeded the goals we had set before the economy soured." And this year? Sales, he says, are up 200 percent. (Another payoff: In May, networking giant Cisco acquired Pure Digital for $590 million.)

To some, it looks like the crapification of everything. But it's really an improvement. And businesses need to get used to it, because the Good Enough revolution has only just begun.

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