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Why Good Enough is Better

May 31, 2012

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“Good enough” products and services may sound like substandard offerings to many consumers in developed economies, but in emerging markets–and increasingly in developed economies–they embody simplicity and focused design.

Ahuja, Prabhu, Radjou are the authors of Juggad Innovation, which you can buy here.

We began exploring the concept of “good enough” in product and service development while conducting field research on grassroots entrepreneurs and innovative enterprises in emerging markets like India a few years ago. We found that innovators in these markets use a unique approach to innovation that starts by upending assumptions and asking fundamental, rather than incremental “what if” questions when developing a new product, service or business model. Asking these fundamental questions, we learned, often leads to simple and focused design of a “good enough” solution–an affordable product or service that effectively meets the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of customers in emerging markets.

Many of these resourceful innovators use jugaad, a Hindi word that roughly translates as “an improvised solution borne from ingenuity that addresses a pressing socio-economic problem.” This frugal and flexible approach to innovation allows them to provide quick and effective solutions to consumers grappling with complex issues in their daily lives. More importantly, jugaad is an approach that is also increasingly critical to driving innovation in developed countries that now face more scarcity and instability than ever before.

Good enough products are of high value to innovators as well as to customers in emerging markets for three reasons:

  1. They are cheaper to make, more affordable and more accessible
  2. They are easier to use and maintain
  3. They satisfy a broader audience

For example, Mansukh Prajapati is an entrepreneur we met in the remote deserts of western India who asked himself a bold question, “What if I can make a refrigerator that does not require electricity?” This is a critical question in a region where delivery of vegetables and dairy is erratic and access to electricity is patchy. Mansukh didn’t even finish high school, but he came from a long line of potters and so had a deep knowledge of clay. To answer his own question, he went back to the basics to consider the natural cooling properties of clay and used this knowledge to make an off-the-grid terra cotta fridge.

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