July 25

The Tyranny of the Adequate

What’s the greatest barrier to brilliant work? Adequacy.

Since most of us are being tasked with making more and more with fewer and fewer resources, the first or most reasonable answer is the one that lets us move on to the next project as quickly as we can. We equate

moving simply through our work with actual progress.

Frankly, this isn’t always the wrong strategy. Sometimes adequate is

appropriate. However, not as often as we likely employ it. Why do we settle so easily?

Mind-numbing repetition:When your work is highly repetitive, it’s easy to succumb to a sense that you’re being carried along by your work rather than driving it. The counterstrategy is to make sure that you have clearly defined edges for your work (objective and defined success criteria) so that you don’t drift with the tide.

Fuzzy boundaries and definition:When accountability is lack- ing, it’s easy to let someone else make the bold decisions. If you want to have a culture in which everyone reaches for brilliance, each person must feel accountable for the end result.

Lack of a through line:Finally, if your tasks lack “connective tissue” to tie them all together into a greater sense of purpose, it’s easy to lose your passion. Try to understand the context of your work in the overall why of your role and your organization.

Sure, there are times when it’s wise to settle for the most reasonable answer, but don’t allow the daily grind to lull you into mediocrity.

Don’t fall prey to the tyranny of the adequate.


is there a place in your work where you are just settling? What should you do about it?

Related Articles