This thought by Antonio Dias jumped out at me from Dwight Towers’ post about mastery and control.

Control is tied to the idea that we can limit energy expenditures and funnel them down paths of our own choosing. We call this greediness “efficiency.” Life processes require the broadest form of energy dissipation into the finest possible “mist” of flow instead of the fire-hose we tend to hold as the ideal. A mist feeds a fire-hose erodes and destroys.

I don’t think this is some absolute truth, but I find it exciting to see some provocative pushback against efficiency. I’m fond of saying that the effort to make meetings efficient makes them inefficient – generally because it’s really an effort to control and, in effect, censor dissent. The thought of a mist suggests the need for finer attention and participation, rather than just doing things to others.

3 thoughts on “Efficiency

  1. Matt Moore

    This reminds me a bit of noted librarian and pornographer Georges Bataille’s ideas – c.f. solar economics and the accursed share.

  2. Earl Mardle

    Efficiency is the subtext cousin of the “lean, mean, right-sized” approach to all organisational development.

    The reality is that so-called “fat” or inefficiency provides resources that are necessary for adaption to change. Fat enables an organism to go without nourishment for a short time while it finds new resources to replace those that have changed or vanished.

    It astounds me that we have had a simultaneous push both for “efficiency” and “innovation”. When you are proposing to make major changes to your life support system, you prepare by fattening up – imagine the European settlers of the US west setting out for the unknown in a “lean and mean” condition.

    Efficiency + innovation = suicide.

  3. Ian Glendinning

    Been getting into some debates about “cost cutting” in relation to BP Deepwater Horizon reports. Clearly economic value is part of every business decision, even (especially) risky ones, but when people start using the rhetoric “cutting” the point is a feeling that something is actually being cut besides just cost.

    Long had a thread (going back to my 1980’s MBA) that efficiency is a dangerous measure of value or quality, because it is limited by what you can “count” in the calculation. Anything not easily counted is simply discounted as arm-waving “intangibles” – whereas there is tremendous hidden value in process (participation) effects and in future investment … simply hard for bean counters to quantify.

    Like the new metaphor, it is after all a rhetorical game. Thanks


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.