The efficient, but less effective, way


“… [B]usiness students are trained to find the single right plan, right. And then they execute on it. And then what happens is, when they put the marshmallow on the top, they run out of time, and what happens? It’s a crisis. Sound familiar? Right. What kindergarteners do differently, is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix ill built prototypes along the way. So designers recognize this type of collaboration as the essence of the iterative process. And with each version, kids get instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.

This amazing short TED talk and the above quoted part got me thinking about a term I came across in the beginning of my MBA training and recently came across again while reading Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances. Equifinality:

Equifinality is the principle that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means.

We are sometime so consumed with the chase after efficiency that we forget two things:

1. There is rarely one “right” way to succeed at anything.

2. Redundancy, multiplicity and wealth of options sometime lead to better outcomes in terms of effectiveness, even though they might seem be less efficient.

A few months ago I wrote this about a different TED talk:

As managers we need to remember that each employee has a world of his own. We need to remember that his world is different than ours and different than “the world” we are trying to create. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Different does not mean wrong. The challenge is to acknowledge the differences and find similarities and connections between the worlds in order align them.

There is a lot of talk about the power of diversity. But diversity is not only in culture, gender, race, age and other demographic qualities. It is also, maybe even more importantly, about abundance of ideas. If different does not mean wrong, then it must have some kind of right component in it. Synergy, by definition, is better than the sum of its parts. But if you only think in one “right” way, there is no way to reach synergy, as it only comes from combination of different ideas.

In a world where efficiency is a standard and where effectiveness will become more and more the differentiator, it is time to start and think in terms Equifinality.

So, do you have one right way?


7 Responses to “The efficient, but less effective, way”

  1. Renata Says:

    Elad, Nice Post! On the topic of leadership and employee management you might be interested to see these video posts by Vineet Nayar “the irrelevant boss” and “jack in the box”


  2. Jono Barel Says:

    Not sure what the marshmallow means (some sort of team-building exercise/research? Don’t have time to watch the video), but huzzah for the good ol’ efficiency v. effectiveness debate!

  3. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Jono… If you have five minutes, watch it… I think you will enjoy!

  4. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Renata for the comment and the links.

  5. Jono Barel Says:

    All I can do is push it in the queue and pray it’ll pop some day.

  6. sherfelad Says:

    A queue? Really? So your time-management system is a line without priorities? You should check this out…

  7. Jono Barel Says:

    I’ll have to get back to you on that one 🙂

    But seriously, I have a to-read list, which I very rarely pop… I actually have my priorities quite clearly arranged, especially since I started working and stopped getting sucked into Google Reader.

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