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Making stuff up

Seth Godin has a post which rehashes the old saying "the good is the enemy of the great" but in the process he appears to miss the key point. He appears to get caught up in telling a story about how things are either wallyrigged in a fool's quest to achieve lowest cost by providing less than functional quality or they are being designed by visionaries in a "relentless pursuit of better".

Perhaps it is just rhetoric to jolt into action those brain cells which have been desensititized by overexposure to marketing campaigns or maybe it is just his way of making a point, but it completely misses the real point that except at the margin, value is what drives design and production. This is so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning. One can look around and find that various levels of quality are available at different price levels. This is true for everything from shovels to jumbo jets. Perfection is what you pay for.

The reason I even bother to post this is that Seth seems to place such conviction behind his ideas that they almost seem convincing until you take a second look at them. He prides himself on his ability to lie. In this case there are a few examples where the lie exposes itself badly. The first is when he proclaims:

But is anything as good as it could be?
Maybe a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Scharffenberger chocolate bar. But almost everything else needs a lot of work....

And what's with the layout of this keyboard? They came up with a keyboard a century ago, decided it was good enough and then stopped!

Um... he said Starbucks? He said that keyboards haven't changed? Then he holds up the example of Jet Blue seeming to imply that perhaps the presence of ladies only toilets is the secret to their business success. I think if you really ask David Neeleman what is more important to his customers, toilets or cost structure he would probably defer to the latter. Perhaps if we asked him what his airline does he would agree that it offers the best possible value to his customers. Certainly it can always be better, but it is the best at that particular price.

Looking at quality alone without considering the cost of that quality is idiotic. Likewise not providing quality when it is cheap or even free to do so is idiotic. It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine where developing false dichotomies and proclaiming them breathlessly falls in the spectrum of things.


Comments (2)

We think along the same lines. I feel validated.

visit: http://www.synthesiscreative.com/blog.php?view=post&poid=121


The Value discussion has two sides. the Buyer and the seller. The agile development folks want us to believe that the value they talk about is the same as the value of a vacuum cleaner ($600 or $50). This thread stimulates thought, since not only aren't the Agile Development folks talking in any units of measure, they're not talking about the same things.

Value to our customer and value to the vacuum cleaner buyer are not the same. Unless you can define value in some unit of measure, its all theory and the discussion of "good enough" adds little value.

Keep going this is getting good.

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