THE WAY AHEAD AT BEING INEFFICIENT
Almost all of us love being the best. Best would unassumingly imply being a perfectionist at what you do.
There is a sustained air of pressure around us to perform and adapt in perfect synchronization to our environments, especially workplaces. Stay vigilant with your time and efforts, we are told. If you aren’t getting great, you’re going to shudder, collapse and eventually vanish under the pile of perceived failure. Do whatever it takes in order to get to that ticket of success (which is mostly a mirage and ostensibly subjective).
Inefficiency does not equate to being ineffective, and most certainly not synonymous to lazy. You do things. You are a bit sloppy, a tad slower and use more energy than plants do during photosynthesis. You don’t deliver results in the way you are expected of. But, don’t feel bad about it. There is real value in not excelling at everything that you do.
Let’s get down to the anatomy of this with a story.
Picture a large, calm and a deep blue lagoon.
It shelters vibrant fish and diverse aquatic vegetation. Of this, smaller fish and invertebrates are desirable prey for a particular species of fish and they have adapted well.
This big fish has also gradually used the underwater foliage to accelerate spawning, refuge and foraging grounds. It can navigate itself with ease. The lagoon has aplenty resources all year round, thanks to the stable climate.
It has evolved for this task of making the most of it, and the lagoon provides for all of its essential needs, so it has no incentive to try anything else.
Enter: A long-legged, long-necked wading bird, the stork. Occasionally, the bird feeds upon smaller fish. It really likes the smaller fish and tries to get more of them. It can never compete with the ‘king of the shallow waters’ since the latter is specialized.
However, the stork is completely diurnal and it can get a better sight of its prey through the shallow waters. It has a slow but regular pattern and uses its spectacular vision when soaring through the air. It flaps its huge, broad wings as little as possible to save energy.
Then one day, a huge environmental change impacts the lagoon where this is all playing out. It is drastic and lasts for a while. The vegetation is in complete disorder. The sources of food alter.
Who is in a better position to not just survive, but thrive in these unwelcoming and new conditions? These changes are an absolute disaster for the big fish and an opportunity for the bird.
Why? In part, because the bird benefits from its previous inefficiency. Both the bird and big fish can get smaller fish. Undoubtedly, the big fish is significantly more efficient at doing so in a stable environment.
But in times of inevitable changes, the inefficiency of the bird allowed for the development of other traits that gave it the flexibility to adapt to different environmental circumstances. It became a generalist, with some specialized features like swiftness, sharper vision, and greater adaptability.
Complete efficiency limits us. We become supremely invested in maintaining the status-quo because that is where we excel. The pedestal of being ‘Numero Uno’ .
Innovation is seen as a threat. Change is perceived to be a nightmare. Being perfect at something is dangerous if it’s the only thing that you can do.
Efficiency is an absolute championing trait to manifest in an unchanging environment. But, to expect a situation to remain static is idealistic. Perhaps, we need a transition in thinking about what it means to be the best.
When you routinely put yourself in circumstances where you aren’t most skilled at, you learn, you make mistakes and you grow.
You develop a wide array of skills and this flexibility could also give you the confidence of seeking change. The bird could explore and find new avenues, but the fish was never going to leave the lagoon.