My Posts

“Good Enough” Skill Building

I’ve been thinking more about this post. The one where I wrote about how competencies in specific tools are already starting to go by the wayside (and will only get worse). Then I think about the short term (and terrifying) consequences of becoming an expert in anything fluid like certain social media tools.

Look at an Amazon search for MySpace books. People invested hundreds (if not thousands) of hours into books chasing that tool. And thousands bought them to try to find the answers to their questions about MySpace. They were using tool specific manuals (some of them written as little as two years ago) and now they’re worthless. I take that back. Once winter hits, you can use the pages to help start a nice fire. That’s worth something, right?

Then there is this idea of good enough. It’s the idea that you can build something that is, let’s say, 80–90% there and launch it. After that, you can slowly change or improve it or you can divest yourself eventually without investing a ton of resources in something that may or may not work. In programming, it is a fairly common practice because the good enough features might take 200 hours to program while the one’s that get that last 10–20% might take another 1,000+ hours.

Whenever I’ve taught about specific tools, I’ve always taken a good enough approach to learn them. Twitter is something that I figure I’m good enough on and most people can be good enough on too. Post regularly, share new things that are interesting, retweet things that are interesting, respond to and converse with people, don’t spam and follow those who interest you. That’s probably 90% of the real value of Twitter right there.

Can I tell you when the best time to tweet is? Can I tell you what the best tool is for using Twitter? Can I tell you the top subjects that get retweeted? No.

And why should I? You should tweet when you have something interesting to say, share or converse about. You should try different tools and find out what you like or dislike. You should tweet about things you like, even if only a couple dozen people actually care. That’s a hundred different things to a hundred different people.

Here’s the real question: what skills will actually stand the test of time? Where are you investing that time?

I spend more time reading and writing long form text than I do consuming and writing social media content. My hope is that I’ll continue to be prepared for what comes next because it will still likely involve written communication (and it still makes me better in how I communicate 140 characters at a time).

Certainly, there will be people who chase those fluid aspects of life and try to become an expert in them (if even for a fleeting moment). I knew a guy who made a bundle designing custom MySpace designs. He chased every last dollar out the door and at the end of the day, he ended up getting another job just like the one he quit years ago.

Even if you decide to chase the next Google Wave book, that doesn’t make you exempt from the fact that you have to develop skills that last much, much longer. Can you leverage that social media book into more writing opportunities? Can you develop skills that will move needle elsewhere? Can it propel you to learn more about what’s coming next or for an exit into a different field?

Good enough is all about intent. It is about how you choose to spend time and what skills and goals you choose to pursue. There is no shame in being good enough in many areas of life. The more important consideration is asking yourself what you do want to develop and become better than good enough.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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