Mediocrity as the New Benchmark for Excellence

Discussion in 'Politics and other "Messy" Stuff' started by Nathan, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

    Mar 30, 2009
    25,144
    10,033
    113
    Writer
    Short North
    Ratings:
    +10,050 / 0 / -0
    What's become of us as a society? When did close become the ideal?

    Something has happened in our modern world that threatens our very way of living. When it comes to paying for goods and services, we have completely altered our standards of what is acceptable and what is good.

    The standard of good has been replaced by good enough, which is a way of justifying the mediocre. When we encounter the good enough standard on a regular basis, we come to accept it as normal.

    Have we become so "PC" that the mere thought of offending someone that performed a substandard job or service for us that we cower and accept it.

    Discuss...
     
  2. Rally

    Rally New Member
    Motoring Alliance Founding Sponsor

    May 5, 2009
    600
    50
    0
    Ohio
    Ratings:
    +50 / 0 / -0
    ^^ one of my biggest pet peeves.

    "Quality" has basically been thrown out the window when it comes to judging and valuing products/services/performances.
     
  3. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

    Jun 11, 2009
    1,158
    3
    0
    A Man of Wit and Charm! (Just ask my wife!)
    Woodside, CA, up in the hills and trees.
    Ratings:
    +3 / 0 / -0
    A couple items to add to the discussion...

    at my first job after grad school, I had an interesting discussion with my boss (right before I quit). He said "Matt, I get the feeling that you do just enough to get the job done." He was obviously implying that I wasn't doing enough, even though I was meeting the standard of the requirements as specified to me. I asked him "What, are you really saying that we have to deliver beyond the specified requirements?" He had no answer. Really to be honest, the discussion wasn't realy about deliverables, we had a different work culture and that was leading to a non-workable situation, this was just political cover for them (I quit before being fired). But I've never forgotten that discussion. If the requirements were really beyond the specifications of the task, what good were the specifications and why did they exist? I've never gotten an answer to that one.

    Scenario number two is from a tech conference at a company I used to work at. This company had, like many mid sized companies, grown by buying lots of smaller companies. The (good) idea was to take all the key technologiests somewhere for discussions, presentations and the like to stimulate some cross-pollination of technologies. Anyway, this one guy who had been in academics and now was doing industrial product developement was asked what he found to be the biggest difference between the ivory towers and industry.. After thinking about it, he answered "Here, I learned that good enough is good enough. If you try to make things perfect, they never get done." Once again, I found the notion of meeting requirements to be re-enforced.

    Another scenario from the first company. We were building something called a "scanning tunnelling microscope" (a truely bitchen piece of hardware). Before my arrival, a product roadmap had been created. It was fine. But anyway, it involved releasing a base hardware platform with the highest field/smallest magnification head installed. Then developing the highest resolution/smallest field head to be released later. Fine. Of course, the company pre-sold the high resolution head to get bookings and because many customers wouldn't have wanted the system without the high resolution capabilities. OK, I could live with that. Then when it came to make the high resolution unit... Let's just say the team found it challenging. Very challenging. Because it was supposed to be capable of atomic resolution and the device was a cube about 6" on a side (ratio of dimensions is left as an excursize to the curious), it needed to be stable. Very very dimensionally stable. Well, it wasn't. So to get it to work, the team would mount a sample at the end of one work day, cover the device with a custom built plexiglas box so that ventilation currents didn't create thermal gradients in the device, and image the sample the next day in the morning. The team finally created images with atomic resolution. A good milestone, but far, far from a finished product. Anyway, some were all happy thinking that they could start shipping the modules. I said that I thought they were crazy. This wasn't a very popular view. I pointed out that the target market for our instrument was industry and that we'd sold the technology on 90% of the capability of the expensive systems at 1/3rd the price, and that it was capable of fast sample turn around etc etc etc to make it good for industrial applications. Setting up a sample in the evening and imaging in the morning limited the instrument to one sample a day, not one every 20 min. So, my boss (same one from the first example) said "But we met our spec" I asked what spec and where did it come from "The one we wrote" was his answer. I was one of two people in the company who had experience with this type of technology, and I said "Let me put it this way. If you GAVE me this instrument, I wouldn't use it." you couldn't get results out of it fast enough. Needless to say, this was the beginning of the end for me at this company.

    This last example is closest to Nate's scenarios of accepting crap. The company ended up (After I was gone) offering all customers who had ordered the high resolutioin scan head a refund or an exchange for another instrument, as they could never get it to work. They'd defined a standard that was just crappy work, and were all happy to have made it. To be fair to the team, they didn't have the experience to know that they were making crap (well, all but one didn't know... that's another story).

    So, have we all gone to hell in a hand basket? Not quite. But everywhere, I see things that are marketed as though they are better than they are. The appearence of quality has in many cases replaced quality, and we all suffer for it. Other than those that make the money on selling the crap. I do think that this is close to pervasive, and that appearence is being valued more and more over actual quality. And this isn't healthy in the long run at all. It is corrosive and invasive. It is also an example of short term (profit) maximization over long term benefits. One could go on for days how these types of things tend to be self-reinforcing if left to themselves and what the implications are for untended markets, but I won't cause I don't want Paul to get his panties in a wad! ;)

    If you have young kids, you deal with this all the time. Crap that is shiney, or has a sticker of a favorite cartoon charecter gets kids begging for purchase. I try to tell Alison it's just shiney garbage, but I know I'm fighting an ever rising tide. Sometimes we get her what she asks for, only then does she see that it really is crap, and she gets dissapointed.... I hope she learns.

    So what is one to do? Well, we should all value good work and run away from the cheap and expedient. With regard to some of my examples, making sure the specifications are usefull and realistic means that they can be used as an objective measure of success or task completion. Crappy specs are "garbage in garbage out" every time.

    And we have to stand up and reward quality while not tolerating crap. Without many doing this, we'll all just drown in the shoddy, without any recourse cause the only option left will be crap bought at discount houses.

    Matt
     
  4. minimark

    minimark Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    5,146
    1,300
    113
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Ratings:
    +1,300 / 0 / -0
    As a society becomes less self reliant and more intitaled mediocrity thrives..... The concept of "A Job Well Done" is lost when there is no reward for doing it better....
     
  5. Deviant

    Deviant Banned

    Apr 23, 2009
    578
    2
    0
    Student
    Southern IL
    Ratings:
    +2 / 0 / -0
    Standards are standards for a reason and I generally agree with Dr. Obnxs with the points and scenarios he made. The problem I see is when they shift the standards to make it easier for the people to meet them rather than bring the people up to speed on the standard. I became somewhat aware of this very recently when I had to take an entry level computers course at the university to fulfill my degree requirements, despite the fact that I'd just spent 5 years in the Army doing help-desk, networking, and net-security jobs.
    The class is pretty easy though, all the lecture notes are posted online, the exams are open-book, and the exams consist of 100 questions drawn from a pool of 400 or so questions that are also posted online. People still have problems with the class, they want the test to be shorter, have open notes allowed as well as text-books, and a bunch of other complaints. It's really ridiculous how simple the class is and how much people struggle with it.
     
  6. kelly girl

    kelly girl New Member

    Aug 10, 2009
    117
    15
    0
    has nothing to do with my MINI :( -- but at least
    in a nuclear fallout bunker, complete with bottle
    Ratings:
    +15 / 0 / -0
    ever see the movie IDIOCRACY? i fear we are headed in that sad direction.

    i attribute this downfall of quality, service, lack of excellence, and the like, to the 'dumbing down' of society.

    we accept medocrity as an acceptable standard, no longer strive for excellence or perfection, and just don't give a damn anymore about each other or ourselves.

    we grow lazy in our written correspondence, fail to correct spelling as we rely on a machine to do it for us. punctuation goes to the wayside, grammatical and sematical perfection are thus replaced by a text shorthand, l33t, or acronyms. i find myself in many situations forgetting capitalization, and punctuation.

    brevity is king, while manners and proper salutaions are omitted, as we assimilate ourselves in this fast food, drive through, me first paradigm shift.

    tiz a sad time we live in, indeed...
     
  7. Deviant

    Deviant Banned

    Apr 23, 2009
    578
    2
    0
    Student
    Southern IL
    Ratings:
    +2 / 0 / -0
    You didn't capitalize the first word of every sentence there.... I'm just saying.

    Seriously though, I think it seems we are generally dumbing things down but in a lot of instances the things we encounter day to day are designed for the lowest common denominator so sure the things we encounter most often will have this appearance. But in a lot of ways we demand more from certain things as time goes on. The engineers, scientists, and researchers can't just rely on the current standards and expect to keep their jobs for long, they have to continually improve and innovate or they'll be left by the way-side. Most people wouldn't be happy with a car with 1970s technology (at least not at new car prices) or a computer with programming and hardware from the 80s. Doctors aren't prescribing the same drugs and treatments as they were even a decade ago and that cell-phone you picked up last year, while still a perfectly good phone and probably able to send and receive text messages or take photos, is blown out of the water by the phones you can get today. It may seem like we're going backwards, but I still see the general trend is forward in most ways.
     
  8. minimark

    minimark Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    5,146
    1,300
    113
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Ratings:
    +1,300 / 0 / -0
    Does anyone know of one great/classic/memorable automobile, loved because of it's great quality, performance or design that was built in Russia or China?
     
  9. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    3,105
    392
    0
    LaLaLand, Left Coast, Overpopulated and Underfunde
    Ratings:
    +392 / 0 / -0
    Yes. T34 and T72.
     
  10. minimark

    minimark Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    5,146
    1,300
    113
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Ratings:
    +1,300 / 0 / -0
    Pics, don't know those!?
     
  11. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    3,105
    392
    0
    LaLaLand, Left Coast, Overpopulated and Underfunde
    Ratings:
    +392 / 0 / -0
    T34:

    [​IMG]

    T72:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. minimark

    minimark Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    5,146
    1,300
    113
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Ratings:
    +1,300 / 0 / -0
    Thought so.....LOL
     
  13. Dr Obnxs

    Dr Obnxs New Member

    Jun 11, 2009
    1,158
    3
    0
    A Man of Wit and Charm! (Just ask my wife!)
    Woodside, CA, up in the hills and trees.
    Ratings:
    +3 / 0 / -0
    That's because...

    they are (were?) battle tanks that kicked some serious ass! Crappy gas mileage though....

    Matt
     
  14. jiminni

    jiminni Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2009
    1,592
    260
    83
    Ca.
    Ratings:
    +260 / 0 / -0
    It's called, 'Socialism". And it's coming to a town near you :mad:
     
  15. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    3,105
    392
    0
    LaLaLand, Left Coast, Overpopulated and Underfunde
    Ratings:
    +392 / 0 / -0
    That would be a function of the price of gas... :D
     
  16. Rally

    Rally New Member
    Motoring Alliance Founding Sponsor

    May 5, 2009
    600
    50
    0
    Ohio
    Ratings:
    +50 / 0 / -0
    It's not like 'Capitalism' is a much better place for 'Quality' to thrive. You still have people cutting corners and trying to make the cheapest product that will still sell. Companies like Wal-Mart drastically decrease the quality of their products in an attempt to have the lowest prices among competitors to get the most sales.
     
  17. jiminni

    jiminni Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2009
    1,592
    260
    83
    Ca.
    Ratings:
    +260 / 0 / -0
    Ok....so I didn't know Walmart really makes anything? The Sony tv I looked at the other say was not a Sony? Your right, "Capitalism" is not the be all end all of civilisation, but name me one country that has prospered, economically and civily under socialism?
     
  18. Nathan

    Nathan Founder

    Mar 30, 2009
    25,144
    10,033
    113
    Writer
    Short North
    Ratings:
    +10,050 / 0 / -0
    Walmart does not make a product but they pressure suppliers to keep lowering the price of goods. Suppliers can only cut margins so thin, eventually something has to be done to take some of the costs out of the product. While that TV may have a Sony label on it quite possibly it is a Walmart only model that has features removed allowing it to be sold at a lower price point. An educated consumer may look up the model number and note this but on the whole the consumer sees the brand label and does not compare it to other models by the same manufacturer not realizing that the same looking TV in Best Buy is really a different model.

    This thread has really taken a tangent from where it started, that is not a bad thing. My contention is that we as consumers now settle more and accept more imperfections. This is expecally true when we deal with smaller businesses on a day to day basis. Like the waitress at the local coffee shop that one day brings us a burger that is not cooked just right. Instead of making a fuss we just accept this now. We've collectively become a nation of wimps that would rather stew in our misery than do something about it for fear of offending someone else.
     
  19. goaljnky

    goaljnky New Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    3,105
    392
    0
    LaLaLand, Left Coast, Overpopulated and Underfunde
    Ratings:
    +392 / 0 / -0
    I am starting to notice a trend with you. :lol:
     
  20. BlimeyCabrio

    BlimeyCabrio Oscar Goldman of MINIs
    Lifetime Supporter

    May 4, 2009
    3,532
    2,896
    113
    Professional Facilitator and Alignment Consultant
    Holly Springs, NC
    Ratings:
    +2,896 / 0 / -0
    Dude... all you needed to do was add a few more pieces of flair and you'd still be happily employed there. Why do people like you always blow these things out of proportion? ;)

    [​IMG]

    Good call. :lol:

    Definitely a lot of factors influencing this.

    Political Correctness / Multiculturalism does contribute.

    Also a problem is the introduction of so many layers of intermediaries between producers and consumers. The owners of my favorite restaurants know exactly how I feel about the quality I'm getting - because they ask every time I go there, and I tell them. Their profit motive drives them to decide the optimal balance of cost and quality which earns them the business they want. It works! Restaurants who don't get this quickly go out of business. When I go to Taco Bell, I have different expectations than when I go to Ruth's Chris. And both do a reasonable job of optimizing their profit with their quality and the expectations they set, and their pricing.

    A huge factor is very poor education on these issues. My children would get much more value out of learning economics, value chains, competitive strategy, entrepreneurship, etc. in elementary school than they get from memorizing the capitals of all the African nations. Guess which they get taught and tested on? Kids aren't taught to understand the concepts of "quality" and "value" - they should be. I teach mine that at home. But most kids never get that.
     

Share This Page