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There's an expression that, "Perfect is the enemy of good". What is the opposite of that expression? I'm talking about times when "marginally adequate" is also "the enemy of good". Is there a more concise and evocative way to say that? "Golden handcuffs" might be in the right ballpark, if they were downgraded to "Bronze handcuffs".

For example: A product that suits most people's needs most of the time, but is unsuitable for most people some of the time, and some people most of the time. Yet, for whatever reason, this product is completely dominant, and can't be dislodged from its market position. Some possible reasons include:

...an inherent weakness to majority rule in which the majority of an electorate pursues exclusively its own objectives at the expense of those of the minority factions.

...a decision "which bases its claim to rule upon numbers, not upon rightness or excellence".

To give a more specific example of a product: I'm talking about the kind of criticism you saw against "Wintel" (Windows and Intel) at one time.

Arguably, platforms that make money by selling your data or showing you ads (Facebook, Google, etc.) are also examples of this. They may be very effective, but their core business model is extremely objectionable to some people.

Another example is hypertext, which has some major failings like "link rot", links that only go in one direction, no inherent licensing mechanism, etc. Attempts to fix hypertext have been kludge on top of kludge. I once heard hypertext described as, "The worst thing that could possibly work."

In the same vein, email has some problems like "spam" that have been so intractable that there's an oft-cited joke about "Why your solution to spam won't work".

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    It's not quite right but I am reminded of "Better the Devil you know" to describe a situation you would prefer to a one that is yet unknown.
    – Elliot
    May 27, 2022 at 14:11
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    @k1eran In this situation, the existing product's market position is too stable. That's why it's stifling better solutions. May 27, 2022 at 15:05
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    I would call this product ingrained, which has the connotation of being "comfortable but not great" May 27, 2022 at 21:50
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    I can't answer but I don't understand why someone wasted a downvote on a novel question. I have compensated for it.
    – Anton
    May 27, 2022 at 22:03
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    Harry Clements explained how Cessna came to design their "optimised mediocrity":. This phase is understood in different ways by different people, but the Cessna 172 is the best-selling airplane of all time - by miles.
    – Phil Sweet
    May 27, 2022 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

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It is a satisficing solution (or product per your examples). Satisfice (and satisficing) is a portmanteau word combined from satisfy and suffice; and coined by Herbert Simon (an American political scientist) in 1956. This term describes a solution/choice/outcome that is satisfying and sufficient; and it is often used in the context of decision-making in business, psychology, economics and marketing. Here are more details and relevant excerpts from two sources (one in business, one in psychology):

Satisficing is a decision-making strategy that aims for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than the optimal solution. The satisficing strategy can include adopting a minimalist approach in regards to achieving the first attainable resolution that meets basic acceptable outcomes.

  • Customers often select a product that is good enough, rather than perfect, and that's an example of satisficing.
  • A limitation of satisficing is that there is no strict definition of an adequate or acceptable outcome.

investopedia.com

"Satisficing" can also be regarded as combining "satisfying" and "sacrificing." In this usage the satisficing solution satisfies some criteria and sacrifices others.

... from a decision theory point of view, the distinction between "optimizing" and "satisficing" is essentially a stylistic issue (that can nevertheless be very important in certain applications) rather than a substantive issue. What is important to determine is what should be optimized and what should be satisficed.

psychology.fandom.com

The decision-making process that involves satisficing is explained with bounded rationality also:

Bounded rationality is a human decision-making process in which we attempt to satisfice, rather than optimize. In other words, we seek a decision that will be good enough, rather than the best possible decision. - thedecisionlab.com

Note: There is an earlier obsolete verb satisfice which is an alteration of satisfy. OED mentions that it is still used in this sense in northern dialects of England; and adds that it is either after its etymon classical Latin satisfacere or after verbs in -fice, e.g. suffice v.

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  • This is on the right track, but people who use satisficing normally don't intend to imply by this term any kind of a negative judgment of that mode of practical reasoning. The OP seems to want a term for something like satisficing that would imply a negative judgment of it. Also, the OP is looking for a term for something barely good, while satisficing typically leads to results that are better than that.
    – jsw29
    Jul 6, 2022 at 15:23
  • @jsw29 Negative judgement, though it doesn't have to be involved in all the examples, is part of the decision-making process and more within bounded rationality theory; however satisficing can involve too, as a strategy. I've found this excerpt in the Bounded Rationality article in Wikipedia: "Three major topics covered by the works of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky include Heuristics of judgement, risky choice, and framing effect, which were a culmination of research that fit under what was defined by Herbert A. Simon as the Psychology of Bounded Rationality."
    – ermanen
    Jul 6, 2022 at 16:10
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I think you could use the word tokenistic, which means to make only a token effort or doing no more than the minimum.

Maybe something along the lines of 'tokenistic solutions that do nothing but stifle innovation'

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