We had this age of efficiency and continuous improvement for a long time. When the Japanese were destroying us in the auto industry with better quality cars we buckled down and hyper-focused on quality. It worked. ISO standards, Deming Cycles and Six Sigma drove quality to new standards, and we produced a generation of managers that ensured statistical quality for the masses.
There’s money to be made in efficiency for sure. I enjoyed conversations recently with an executive friend at UPS who shared the relentless focus UPS has on logistics and using unmanned vehicles and drones in their R&D. They are in the efficiency business, and both workforce productivity and the market demand for immediacy are driving their initiatives. We, as consumers, get to partake in what will be a surreal future of fulfillment based on our whimsical desires. The speed, precision and customization are being worked on while we consume from our mobile on-demand lives anytime, anywhere.
I think the business of productivity and efficiency fit well for enterprises that can move the needle in our lives from a mass perspective. They are productivity behemoths and get rewarded for consolidating around this value proposition.
However, there are many more slots to fill for customers that go beyond productivity. As humans, we still want to consume creativity. That boutique hotel experience or the out of the box retreat attracts us in a way that relieves our tired minds from consumerism, efficiency and boring.
If you are in the productivity business, keep pushing the bounds of faster, cheaper and efficient. That’s the value the market expects.
For all other endeavors, your creativity, not necessarily your productivity, will have a larger impact on selling and being relevant. The ideas you are able to generate and implement will be the differentiator in such a ridiculously competitive world.
I had a friend recently say, “Stay in the mess.” He was talking about the complexities of IT problems he is involved with that AI has not touched yet. We were talking about how that will likely change with deep learning technology that is continuously pushing the envelope.
Today’s mess is not necessarily going to remain hard or obscure.
And the challenge becomes looking for new messes using the efficiencies, tools and platforms that productivity has solved for our creative benefit.
I am not sure what the future beholds in business. But I do see, from the front lines, how those who are creative stand out. Getting in the mess where strategy, forward thinking and the ability to connect the dots tends to gain trust, respect and relationship gets rewarded.
Simply trying to make efficient things more efficient has marginal value.
If you are not productive at this point, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Give it up and do what you can. There’s already consolidated and large leverage players that accomplish productivity far better than you. Partner with them.
It’s a far better strategy to invest in creativity. Find a new angle. Straddle multiple industries and blend those ideas into a new approach. Take some time to get above the fray and see the forest from the trees. You’ll add a lot more value in today’s world being a creative resource that can make ideas happen quickly. Oh, and you don’t have to be frenetic. You just have to commit to being insightful, strategic and creative.