Become Less Efficient

We are turning ourselves into the gears of civilization.

I just had a new roof put on my house. As they were removing the old roof I asked one of the workers if I could double check the color of the new roof before they started putting it on. He let me know that his team was responsible for removing the old roof and that a different team will be installing the new roof. As I observed the rest of the job, I learned that there were actually three teams. The first team removed the roof. The second team delivered and set up the new roofing materials and the third team installed the new roof. As a modern society…

We increase efficiencies through specialization. 

The roof removal team is probably 30% more efficient because it’s their specialty. And while I’m all for efficiency gains given I am footing the bill for the roof, I can’t help but think there is something being lost. 

As a society we are trading away our humanity to gain efficiency. We are turning ourselves into the gears of civilization. And as each of us becomes more expert at our specialty, we are all loosing our grasp on the big picture. So my counterintuitive advice is to…

Become less efficient, by broadening your knowledge and becoming more valuable.

Instead of burrowing deeper, climb higher. How? At work, we could consider career moves that broaden our perspective. If we are in engineering, we could try sales. If we are in sales, we could explore a move to the marketing group – or at least find out what these adjacent departments are actually doing. We need to find ways to expand our knowledge, not narrow it. While in college we could take classes outside of our major. If we have a specific hobby, we could explore different fields. If we read fiction, we could try nonfiction. So in conclusion…

To expand our humanity my counterintuitive advice is to become less efficient.

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20 thoughts on “Become Less Efficient

  1. dpcinh2013 June 7, 2016 / 6:00 am

    in this age of super-specialization, we doctors learn more and more about less and less. The patient becomes a case-file, an in-patient ID number, or a bed-number (Nurse, please give bed no 10 an enema!).

    • Sal's Blog June 7, 2016 / 6:27 am

      Wow – great example! And as each Doctor or Researcher becomes more expert at their specialty – fewer and fewer of us will understand the wholistic picture. Thanks for the comment!

    • conrad seitz June 22, 2016 / 8:14 am

      Doctor, huh? Only specialists make any money as doctors and specialists are more and more specialized and cut off from real patient problems, like sore throats. heheheh.

    • Kate Rauner April 16, 2017 / 12:28 pm

      Your comments reminds me of something a read once – experts learn more and more about a narrower and narrower field until they know absolutely everything about nothing. 😀

      • Sal's Blog April 16, 2017 / 12:43 pm

        Interesting, that is where this ultimately leads.

  2. richardmitnick June 22, 2016 / 4:59 am

    Thanks for following sciencesprings. I appreciate it very much.

  3. conrad seitz June 22, 2016 / 8:12 am

    Hello, Sal. Thanks for liking my blog. I hope you read “The Three Body Problem” as I really enjoyed it. I don’t know how much time you spend reading science fiction, but you don’t spend much time writing on your blog, from the looks of it. I liked “Become Less Efficient” especially as advice for young people who smarter than average, who don’t need to become more efficient but more unspecialized– it’s good to learn about everything, especially practical things that don’t fit in with your job. Like starting a fire without matches.
    I recommend you put in at least one entry a month, even if it’s not as good as this one. But that’s just me. Also request that you wish more traffic on my blog… I write too much and have too small an audience.
    Why do we write? For completely selfish reasons. But we do believe that others will benefit from our wisdom.
    Why do so many people write apps for Apple products– when so few get any reward for it?

    • Sal's Blog June 22, 2016 / 8:15 am

      Thanks Conrad! I’ll check out the recommendation. Great advice.

  4. usathroughoureyes September 18, 2016 / 9:31 am

    “The more wrinkly I get – the more backwards our world looks.” We like this phrase Sal. So much truth to it.

    • Sal's Blog September 18, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Thank you! Absolutely love your website!

  5. wordsandstars October 13, 2016 / 1:52 pm

    People used to say that the jack of all trades is the master of none. That may be true. But as knowledge grows, changes, evolves and sheds its many skins, we find that none of us can be the master in the end. What we need to be, consistently and devotedly, is a student of the world of all things.

    Thanks for leading me to your world. I look forward to spending time here.

  6. Opher October 14, 2016 / 4:34 pm

    As a teacher I found efficiency – ie. exam results – replaced the human touch of good teaching, human interaction and a broader approach. It was being skinned back to the essentials but losing the qualities that could not be measured. Efficient but far less.

  7. William Hill January 14, 2017 / 9:25 am

    There is some truth to the expression, jack of all trades and master of none, in that by knowing something – but not everything necessary to do a job completely or well – it leaves a lot of room for error or failures (the old country GP may have known a little of most medicine, but how many lives could have been saved or made better by referral to a specialist who knew considerably more about the specific illness/injury?) But I am reminded of something that happened to me when my internet went down. Called my provider, who sent a tech, who checked out my box and home’s internal wiring. He said the problem was an outside line problem and he’d have to call in for an outside wiring tech for that. Well, wires are wires, aren’t they, how much difference could there be chasing a fault regardless of inside or out? Oh well, I suppose specializing is one way to increase employment and decrease unemployment.

  8. -Eugenia February 6, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    You make good points in this post. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  9. Monika Ribeiro (writer/poet) May 27, 2017 / 6:29 am

    I totally agree to a point… This one is a little tricky because no one wants to be a jack of all trades, but a master of none. You make a good point though. I guess it’s about balance and like you said ‘the big picture’.

    • Sal's Blog May 27, 2017 / 6:42 am

      Monika – I completely agree with you. While I don’t advocate being a ‘master of none’, the post expresses concern about over specialization. I like to become expert enough in an area to contribute meaningful works without loosing sight of the big picture. Thank you for your interesting insight. – Sal

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