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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

I just spent three weeks in Alberta with my wife’s family. While we were there her grandmother passed away. At and after the funeral we spent a lot of time marveling at the impact of that little lady’s life.

Invariably, one of the awful things following the passing of someone we love is figuring out what to do with all their stuff. Since I was a bit more distant from the emotional impact of it all, I found the process mildly intriguing.

Wandering around that 100 year-old school-house I watched a quiet feud focus on the most unlikely of objects — a doorknob. The one pictured here threatened the nearly unshakable fortitude of my wife’s family. Of course a great deal of sentimental value is associated with anything in the place but I got to wondering about this doorknob in particular — why does everyone care?

One of the reasons is that it’s beautiful. It was carefully designed and has withstood a 100 years of constant abuse by rowdy children and frustrated, door-slamming parents. That glass knob is nearly perfect in its purpose.

“Perfect in its purpose” has been on my mind since then. Is there money in perfect? Look at bespoke tailoring, haute couture (requires reg), and high-end architecture. Ponder the success of IKEA, Apple, and Herman Miller. So, where is perfect among the doorknobs, toilet seats, and running shoes we consume today? Why aren’t web pages brilliantly designed? Where’s the mastery in the songs we sing in church? Where’s the art in broader consumerism?

I’m finally reading Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel and he describes the overwhelming inertia of industries toward convergence. Convergence, he says, naturally moves companies to look and act like everyone else in their industry. In the end we get, in economic terms, perfect competition and everyone makes the same minimal level of profit.

When he wrote the book the economy was chin-deep in high-tech euphoria and (beneath the surface) rampant commoditization. In the five years since then we’ve seen the free-fall of dot coms, the crumbling of the twin towers, and the unnerving emergence of potentially pandemic, food-borne diseases — in the wake of these changes people are seeking things more tangible, unique, and intrinsically valuable.

There is now a toe-hold for perfect. The new niche is the art of everyday things. Just take a gander at the zen section, design section, and culture section of your local bookstore — people are looking for quintessential not just essential.

When I finished my master’s thesis the cycle of rewrites, endless scrutiny, pawing supervisors, and stringent reviews drove me to swear off anything that required 99% quality. Among entrepreneurs I thought I’d found the players in the economy that work for 80% quality and then race to market. And, maybe, among the few in new markets, this is the case. But I’ve discovered, to my deep consternation, that the overwhelming majority of those in maturing markets really have just two choices: convergence or perfect.

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