Efficiency is often confused with effectiveness. It can be a trap.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”Peter Drucker
You can be efficient in doing the wrong things. You can be efficient in doing things you shouldn’t even do. You can efficiently waste your time.
Too often, I make the same mistake. I’m optimizing prematurely. And not asking the important questions.
Efficiency asks us: How can we make this faster, cheaper, with less waste?
Effectiveness asks us: What is the job to be done? What is truly important? What can we eliminate, automate or delegate?
I re-learned this lesson in AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee. China is often not very efficient, because they move super-fast and over-invest. Yet they are hugely effective, because they get the job done, and fast. Be it high-speed rail, mobile payments, or AI, China is brute-forcing its way to success.
You find the same in nature. A tree that produces thousands of seeds isn‘t very efficient. But it’s effective in growing its population.
Efficiency comes from scarcity. Effectiveness sees abundance. Better to waste some money or resources, than to waste time.
Now I understand why Stephen Covey named his bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and not 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People. (It’s a great book that I can highly recommend.)
Effectiveness first. Efficiency second.