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Why Great is Often the Enemy of Good
By: Jerry Northup
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I was once given the assignment to watch inspirational/business speaker Jim Collins’ presentation, “Good is the Enemy of Great,” and summarize his lengthy keynote presentation into an article of about 750 words. In general, it was good, but certainly NOT great. I felt there were unmistakable lapses in logic and a few awkward stumbles in delivery. So why step up to the podium and subject yourself to critical appraisals outside of your control?
The green light is on. Sometimes, the speech, the ad or the blog has got to happen whether it’s “great” or not. Being very good under pressure, especially in tight time frames, is essential. Being too preoccupied with greatness can be a prescription for lameness.
  • Creative by committee. Why do so many ads test poorly, despite the number of highly compensated people involved? In part, there is your answer. It’s even worse when everyone in the room brings their own strategy to the table. Overreaching for input is one reason many ads earn ridicule and that’s usually long before anyone outside of the creative circle ever sees them.
  • Great things generally do not happen after midnight. Burning hours well past daylight is expected from time to time. Nothing wrong with that, but I believe there comes a point of diminishing returns in the creative mind. This dividend, however, doesn’t exist in the minds of team-builders who can sit tirelessly and wait for the latest concepts to magically appear on their desk. Just because they can doesn’t make it right, nor does it necessarily foster great work.
  • Let’s knock their socks off. Doing your best work isn’t something that comes from the motivational efforts of others; it comes from within. That’s why writers are often so possessive of what they write. An attachment to a brand-new creation is a natural and positive part of the creative process, but it can never be the final word. Just as those in the seat of approval can hamstring great ideas and turn them into watered-down blather, writers need to remember that those people, seeing your concepts for the first time, are in the same boat as consumers who will eventually take their place. If the first set of eyes on your work rejects it, you can be certain that history will repeat itself in the marketplace.
For copywriters, there is great value to be had in not settling for “good” when something much better is a revision or two away. A nugget of a great idea is much better than a mine full of average ones. So always shoot for the top in everything you write. That kind of consistent effort will generate very good work on every occasion, and I think that’s pretty great.


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About the Author
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.

Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.

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