“Success in today’s world is no longer about being the best,” the iPad may say, “It’s about being good enough.”
Ten years ago, I had a large TV for shows, an iPod for music, and a Playstation for games. They each were the best in class at what they do, and today their most modern iterations continue to have a place in my life.
The iPad arrived in 2010, initially with little fanfare, much skepticism, and predictions of failure. It was less powerful than a laptop and less portable than an iPhone. Worst of all, “The iPad doesn’t do anything new,” was a common criticism. Its success puzzled the media. One year and fifteen million sold units later, the media began to write articles exploring “Nobody Needs a Tablet. So Why Are We Gobbling Them Up?“
In Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen outlines disruption as an innovation that competes against the existing champions, not by doing things better, but by being “good enough.” That is, the iPad never tried to drive any of its competitors out of the market – it wasn’t better than its competition at those things the competition did. The iPad was good at tasks that its competitions could not do: everything else. While you watched the newest episode of CSI on the best-in-class giant TV, the iPad becomes a good-enough web browser for the couch. While you reviewed tomorrow’s expense report on your best-in-class computer, the iPad becomes a second screen for your YouTube subscriptions. And when you are on the airplane when none of those best-in-class options are available? The iPad becomes the best-in-class for everything.
By aiming to be “good enough” at several things, the iPad succeeded by having a solution handy – albeit not the perfect solution – at the right moment as customer need arises.
Just as the iPad at once does “nothing new” and does everything new, a “unique skill set” is in itself a fortunate combination of otherwise banal skills. As we seek higher education, more training, more specialization to develop expertise in that one useful skill, it becomes easy to believe that our other talents do not deserve the same attention.
Walt Disney was a good business, a good animator, and a good dreamer. He may not have been the world’s best at any one of those (and was reportedly fired from an earlier job for “lack of creativity“), but his animation studio thrived from a set of talents particularly suited for fairy tale engineering, a set of talents no one had yet known were compatible.
The world may not care for the presidential candidate who got the second most electoral votes, but it cherishes the same candidate whose charisma and leadership synergized with his passion to teach climate change.
What career advice would an iPad give? Today’s world changes pace so rapidly that the one-trick world-expert can become obsolete the next day. Instead, success belongs to the multi-talented good-enoughers who have the right skills when the right opportunity arises. Like having an iPad on a plane ride.
Is it good enough to simply be good enough? Leave a comment below.