We seem to live in an age of faux efficiency.
My first design internship was with an agency proud to be “on the cutting edge of technology.” They had invested in equipment and software to make our work more efficient, but no one truly knew how to use that technology well enough to save time. The creative director would pull his hair out daily trying to get this cutting-edge advantage to work.
But the same is true with a refusal to change. My first real design job out of college was spent with an X-Acto knife and hot wax machine, laying out a weekly publication of homes for sale in greater Chicagoland. This was not a time before computers; it was simply a job at an agency that wasn’t willing to switch the antiquated “way we’ve always done things,” — even if it would save time, money, and the occasional X-Acto cut.
Real efficiency first requires inefficiency.
Seth Godin noted how companies all too often make decisions in the name of efficiency that are only efficient in the short-term. To find real efficiency, you have to be willing to take one step back in order to take those two steps forward.
Efficiency is not a business concept new to the digital age. In 1979, Philip Crosby wrote Quality is Free, a book arguing that it is cheaper to build things right the first time rather than come back later to fix them. This principle is foundational to successful brands: Shortcuts are always longer.
Real efficiency takes the time. It takes time to build a solid foundation, to build quality systems and goods, and to establish an authentic brand that will provide efficiency three, five, and 10 years down the road.
As the title of Crosby’s book suggests, quality becomes free in the long-term. And on the flip side, the lack of quality is really expensive. You can invest in a logo that will last 20+ years, or you can continually change logos and pay over and over for new communications, signage, packaging, apparel. You can invest in people who will build a motivated and empowered culture, or you can frugally hire the bare minimum and deal with a revolving door of employees.
Take a moment today and think about what you already know you need to change to discover more real efficiency. What is it you are putting off? Don’t be lured by something you cannot implement. And don’t be too scared to change out that long-obsolete wax machine.