The thing that keeps us off the couch is the passion—the desire to create something of value. Something must exist instead of nothing. It is this drive, this passion, that makes the couch unacceptable, uncomfortable even. And it is this drive that rails against efficiency. Efficiency would have us on the couch, but the desire gets us up and working, spending time, money, and energy.
In my company’s case, business cards are still a thing worth having. So eliminating them is bad efficiency. The couch.
But in the pursuit of a passion, there are other less-tangible elements that many people overlook, elements that efficiency can eventually annihilate if we’re not careful. In a company, the well-being of employees is a value that many companies have, but sometimes luncheons or holiday parties take a hit for the sake of efficiency. Sometimes market competition drives deadlines, and deadlines come at the cost of making a better product—the line between good and great.
This drive for efficiency creates the dystopias we all despise. The cogs in the machines. The lifeless
Office Spaces of Corporate America. Efficiency at all costs is bad efficiency. Because efficiency at all costs still costs something. The question is, what?
Often it’s people, products, and passions. Just as business cards are still worthwhile, these values have to be defended in the face of efficiency. Efficiency at all costs will put us on the couch—maybe in more ways than one. But the people, the products, the passions—these must be defended, held up, pursued. And efficiency must then suffer. If employee happiness is important, then maintain it at the cost of efficiency. If a better product is valued, let efficiency take the hit.
Efficiency must always take the hit. It’s the only way we stay off the couch. But it’s worth it.
Efficiency is fine to have as a value. But it should be just that,
a value. One value among others—be it morality, or generosity, or well-being, or discipline, or familiarity, or quality. To make efficiency the sole measure is to give efficiency much too much credit. Remember the couch.
Efficiency is the impetus behind technology. And like technology, efficiency tends to take over wherever it can—even business cards. Our job is to remember the couch and to fight for the people, fight for the product, fight for the passion.