Chabuduo and 10%ism

I enjoyed Austin Healy’s post on Stopping at 90%. It reminded me of what we used to call “10% ism” when I lived in Belgrade in the early 2000’s. Pretty much anything over there was always unfinished at that time. An entire road would be built, but they would not bother to truly finish it. They would, for example, not do the filling between the new sidewalk and the road. 

It had the effect of making even good work look shabby and unfinished (because it was).

Turns out this is a thing in China too. They have a word for it: Chabuduo.

“The prevailing attitude is chabuduo, or ‘close enough’. It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size. Chabuduo is the corrosive opposite of the impulse towards craftmanship, the desire, as the sociologist Richard Sennett writes in The Craftsman (2008), ‘to reject muddling through, to reject the job just good enough’. Chabuduo implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool. China is the land of the cut corner, of ‘good enough for government work’.”

From “What Chinese corner-cutting reveals about modernity” – James Palmer | Aeon Essays (also posted to Reddit )

Also, not a word, but an excerpt from a book:

“Now listen to the rule of the last inch. The realm of the last inch. The job is almost finished, the goal almost attained, everything possible seems to have been achieved, every difficulty overcome — and yet the quality is just not there. The work needs more finish, perhaps further research. In that moment of weariness and self-satisfaction, the temptation is greatest to give up, not to strive for the peak of quality. That’s the realm of the last inch — here, the work is very, very complex, but it’s also particularly valuable because it’s done with the most perfect means. The rule of the last inch is simply this — not to leave it undone. And not to put it off — because otherwise your mind loses touch with that realm. And not to mind how much time you spend on it, because the aim is not to finish the job quickly, but to reach perfection. “

“In the First Circle” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, on “The Rule of the Last Inch”