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Inefficiency as a Desirable Outcome

Q: Could improving this actually make it worse? 
A: Let’s learn a lesson from old roads

There’s a slogan along the highways of Texas that says, “Drive friendly, the Texas way”. I think people only drive slow enough to read those signs in the rural and country parts of the state. The city driving of the Dallas metroplex, where I grew up, is anything but friendly. 

And in that environment, I’ve noticed something interesting. Some of the best roads are the old, brick or stone-paved ones. They’re the best because they don’t seem to pothole like many of the concrete roads, and they don’t seem to bow or cave like the soft asphalt roads. And it’s not just their longevity, but it’s actually their bumpiness that offers their best feature: safety. 

The bumps of the stones/bricks forces slow and cautious driving. It is one of the  ways that inefficiency is actually more beneficial. Had those streets been paved smooth, there would be more accidents from distracted or speeding drivers.

Many of our streets are smooth because drivers complained of the bumps, and engineers assured us that smooth roads were better for gas-consumption and vehicle wear. And while that’s true, it’s also apparent that there is a hidden cost of improving efficiency if we only measuring for certain criteria. 

Perhaps you’re improving efficiency around your morning routine, but you find that while you’re getting more done, you were happier when you weren’t optimizing every minute. 

Perhaps you’re improving efficiency around your work day, but you find that you have less margin for creative thinking because you’ve eliminated “dead time”. 

Actionable Question: What is one way that efficiency is actually producing a negative outcome in my life? 

-Andrew Nemeth