How To Turn Anything From Adequate To Amazing

If there's one message I have stressed more than any other over the last few years, it is that it is not good enough to be pretty good at everything. The most successful companies, products, and brands have figured out how to become the most of something — not just adequate, but downright amazing.

If there's one pushback I've received more than any other over the last few years, it is that I am setting an unreasonably high bar. "We're not cutting-edge like Google or Facebook, our company is old-fashioned," some executives reply. "This is not a glamorous industry," others protest, "don't expect us to be like Apple or Nike."

That's a cop-out. I don't care what field you're in or what kind of company you work for. It is possible to transform anything you do from adequate to amazing, if you think hard enough about what amazing means in your field and creatively enough about how to stand out from the crowd.

A case in point: a truly stunning parking garage in Miami Beach, Florida. The seven-story structure, at 1111 Lincoln Road, serves about as prosaic a function as can be imagined: it's a place to park cars. But when Robert Wennett bought the homely space back in 2005, he decided to turn something adequate into something amazing. As a New York Times report explained, "Parking garages, the grim afterthought of American design, call to mind many words. (Rats. Beer cans. Unidentifiable smells.) Breathtaking is not usually among them."

But this parking garage truly is breathtaking, so much so that it has become an in-demand venue for charity events, wine tastings, even fancy weddings. The top two floors were designed to both hold cars and host events, and they rent for as much as $15,000 per night. "This is not a parking garage," Robert Wennett told the Times. "It's really a civic space."

Talk about positive word of mouth. I first heard about 1111 Lincoln Road when I attended the American Express Luxury Summit in Park City, Utah. That's right: Executives from some of the world's most exclusive brands were discussing the beauty and originality of a parking garage thousands of miles away. If that's not moving from adequate to amazing, I'm not sure what is.

As I learned more about this remarkable facility, I couldn't help but think about another remarkable facility I visited a year or so ago, and about which I've written before. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, 30 minutes from downtown Detroit, is to health care what 1111 Lincoln Road is to parking garages. The hospital resembles a northern Michigan vacation lodge, on a 160-acre campus with rolling woods, scenic wetlands, and a pond. All 300 rooms (the first 200 of which opened in March 2009) are private and designed to accommodate family members who wish to stay overnight. The hospital's glass-topped atrium features cobblestone streets complete with a day spa for patients and families and an indoor farmer's market with fresh produce, flowers, and baked goods. There's a concierge to help families with errands and a high tea every afternoon at 4:00 PM.

As for the food, it is die for (pun intended). Matt Prentice, a celebrity chef based in Bingham Farms, between Detroit and West Bloomfield, spent two years creating 3,000 recipes so that patients can choose from items that are kosher, halal, organic, or gluten-free.

If the place sounds more like an elegant hotel than a traditional hospital, that's no accident. Gerard van Grinsven, West Bloomfield's CEO, joined Henry Ford after a long career with Ritz-Carlton. "I had a fresh pair of eyes and no baggage when I arrived," van Grinsven told me. "The challenge today is to deliver a level of service comparable to the best hotels in the world, to create a mystique that encourages people to seek us out."

Indeed, the hospital is so beautiful to spend time in, and the food so delicious to eat, that Henry Ford West Bloomfield will host its first wedding this September! Perhaps that's the new test for what it means to build something amazing: Do people want to get married there?

That's not what really matters, of course. What matters is that if Robert Wennett can build a parking garage that is so striking that people want to use it as a social space, and that Gerard van Grinsven and his colleagues can build a hospital that is so inviting that healthy people are eager to spend time there, certainly you can do something in your field to change the game and stand out from the crowd.

There's no excuse to settle for "good enough" anymore. It's time to transform products and services that are adequate into things that are amazing.

Reprinted from Harvard Business Review

William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine, author of Practically Radical, and coauthor of Mavericks at Work. Follow him @PracticallyRad or at WilliamTaylor.com.

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