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Idea Box

When the cure is worse than the disease

The rush to be more efficient, in tandem with a blind faith in data, indicators and algorithms, sometimes creates more difficulties – even catastrophes – than the problem it was designed to solve.

Take the case of the humble potato, which spread rapidly in Europe under the influence of a French pharmacist named Parmentier. An easy-to-grow, nutritious vegetable, potatoes were seen as the miracle solution to famine. In Ireland, the Lumper variety was grown in vast numbers, since it was considered more productive. But this monoculture was attacked by potato blight, leading to the death of a million Irish people and forcing two million to emigrate.

How can you avoid this race for efficiency / lethal risk paradox?

  • Learn how to relinquish efficiency and take the road less travelled so you can revive human intuition and judgment.
  • Feel your way, roam and range, make mistakes. If you do, you will almost certainly make discoveries or, at the very least, learn unexpected lessons.
  • Keep a certain degree of friction: although taking notes on a computer is quicker and makes them easier to read, using a pen and paper helps you digest and anchor information.
  • Don’t jettison redundancy: it makes your processes safer and more secure.

Sometimes it is beneficial to ostensibly move away from your goal in order to better achieve your objective.

To go further

The Paradox of efficiency”

by Edward Tenner (TED Conference, December 10, 2019).

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Florence Meyer
Published by Florence Meyer
Executive coach, change management expert, and author. Constantly on the lookout for the latest management and leadership trends.