What separates good from great? The answer depends on a number of factors including exactly how you define the two terms. In many cases, “greatness” is dependent on our personal perceptions and various intangible attributes. In most cases the difference comes down to effort and desire.
Each year the debate over the BCS college football bowl selection process begins anew. The process determines which two teams will face off in the national championship game and most years the decision rests to some degree on “style points”. Teams and individual players gain “style points” by going the extra mile and giving that extra effort needed to win games and sway public opinion. In short, style points are what distinguish good teams from great teams.
In Olympic sporting events, the difference between the time turned in by a gold medalist and a silver medalist is often less than one one-hundredth of a second.
The difference between good and great can be a razor thin margin and that miniscule difference has given rise to something called the 1 degree theory.
The 1 degree theory refers to the difference between water at 211 degrees and water at 212 degrees. At 211 degrees, water boils. Raise the temperature by a single degree and water will boil and create steam. That single degree increase creates the power needed to power steam engines that once propelled massive ocean liners and locomotives and fundamentally transformed our world in the nineteenth century.
Another example of the 1 degree theory can be found in Thomas Edison’s experimentation to create the modern incandescent light bulb. Edison failed time and time again before arriving at a solution. He once said, “I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material.” Consider the impact if Edison had thrown in the towel after failing 5,999 times!
In his book Good to Great, James Collins writes, “Good is the enemy of great.”
In today’s competitive, cash-strapped business environment, many businesses find it difficult to retain their standards for quality and still turn a profit. The mind set is, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” or, put another way, “good is good enough”. Although there’s nothing wrong with being “good”, consider how you and your business might expend that extra degree of effort that could take you to the next level – to greatness. In many cases, the time and effort needed to go from good to great can be as miniscule as a single degree. As with most things in life, that 1 degree increase in effort put into your business today will translate into huge returns down the road.