The False Choice of Quality vs. Quantity

The False Choice of Quality vs. Quantity

One of my least favorite business platitudes is “quality over quantity”.

The reason is that when it comes to social, business, or the intersection of the two, you need both.

What matters most is:

  • The purpose behind the pursuit of either of those things
  • What you intend to do if and when you get them
  • Whether quantity sacrifices or enhances quality of results or vice versa

For example.

If you want to encourage deeper collaboration in your company, you might look at the business problems that are solved all or in part through collaboration efforts or practices during a given period of time.

So, does more projects touched by collaboration initiatives in some way mean you were successful? Or should you pursue fewer projects but at more depth?

Many people would be tempted to say the latter, because it’s the “quality” that matters.

If you had to make a choice between quality or quantity, that’s probably the right argument to make. But that’s rarely a zero-sum game.

What if you could have more projects and higher quality of outcomes? Having more projects impacted by collaboration programs means more visibility in the organization, which could mean better understanding of the impact of collaboration and result in deeper investments in people, models, or technology to support it.

You can just as easily get so mired in the quest for quality that you run into escalating costs, time investments you can’t afford in the long run, and the lack of infrastructure, relative scale (meaning not everything has to be huge, but it has to be more than it is currently), or ability to deliver on the awesome thing you’ve created.

The answer is probably somewhere in between; you want a balance of reach and impact in order to find the optimal zen between proven results to encourage future investment, social proof for visibility and credibility of the practice, quality of experience for the participants, value to the beneficiaries of the solution, and the realistic application of the solution to the rest of the business over time.

Rather than thinking of “quality vs. quantity”, the better bet is to look at how you can use quality to beget quantity as well as how you can build and leverage quantity to create better quality in whatever you’re doing.

It refocuses your attention on what you’re trying to accomplish, why it matters, and how you’ll get there rather than the measures themselves.

No measure of value is useful on its own. Quality is subjective (and very relative). Quantity can be shallow and meaningless.

But if you use the two as momentum for one another, THAT is where you find something that achieves contextual breadth, depth, and impact. For most business initiatives, you want a bit of both. They’re two essential parts of a complex engine that makes the whole thing go.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Amber is the president of SideraWorks, a culture and organizational transformation firm. She's also the best-selling author of the social business book The Now Revolution. You can find her on twitter at @ambercadabra.
  • Donnie Clapp

    All this is true, and I think it was worth saying, but in the end, the premise is flawed.

    Quality *is* more important than quantity. It’s just that quantity is also important.

    Put another way, quantity without quality is almost worthless, but quality without quantity has some [often significant] value.

  • JeromePineau

    If I might disagree a little with your point @Donnie — quantity is an important marketing aspect ie: repetition. Repetitive junk content is what US TV commercials and ads have been premised on for decades. This model is no longer very effective as annoyance marketing loses to values and WOM models post social. Tolerance levels have fallen.

    To me, quantity+quality is the only option and is one of the reasons “microcontent” is exciting to me. It is in line with the way human brains have been rewired to consume information and content. Should probably be part of any modern content strategy.

    Just my 2 cents :)

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