We are all looking for an edge. To find out, we are often overwhelmed with efficiency – looking for ways to move faster and produce more.

But is it possible? Too much Skilled? What if, paradoxically, our pursuit of skills makes us less efficient?

This is not a crazy idea I recently heard from Edward Tenner, a prominent scholar of the Smithsonian Institution and author of a book. Skills paradox. He is not opposed to efficiency – after all, there is nothing productive about being disorganized and disorganized. But he offers caution to those who glorify it.

“Innovation can hardly be done efficiently,” he told me. “There are always a lot of mistakes involved. So if you have software or any other system that optimizes things very quickly, you may miss the biggest opportunity. “

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For example, he proposes Harry Potter. Many publishers rejected the book when JK Rowling first pitched it, most likely because it conflicted with publishers’ data on what kids like. The story was unusually long and set in an old-fashioned place – who wants to ?! But in the end, the founder of a small British publisher gave the first chapter to his then 8-year-old daughter. She loved it, so that was it.

In short, a child’s inefficient recreation defeats the efficient data-driven decision of the major publishers. It should be a lesson for all of us, Tener says – because it is both a trap to avoid and an opportunity to explore.

“In pure skill and brute force, giant firms will always have an advantage,” he says. “But entrepreneurs can distinguish the right combination of technology with human touch and the ability to connect with people in a way that really big companies can’t.”

Tener’s message can be applied in a large and wide-ranging way to companies that increase efficiency at the expense of innovation. After all, I can bet that Blockbuster runs a very efficient store when a young Netflix inefficiently studies what modern entertainment fans want. But as Tener told me all this, I realized that the principle applies personally – and how, in reality, I can push my own skills into the paradox.

I am an outsider, and I attribute much of my success to my ability to connect with others and translate their ideas to the public. But as my work got busier, more and more people were asking me for meetings and calls – and I was getting less time for any of them. For a while, I sorted it out through a system that I called “arbitrary yes” – meaning to say yes, completely indiscriminately, to occasional encounters with a stranger. Most of it went nowhere, but a few great ideas, connections and even friends made. The beauty of incompetence!

Then life became too busy for him. I even reduced the number of calls and meetings with people I know. I recently hired an assistant to help me manage everything and she found a way to be equal for me More Efficient. In one case, he offered to answer all my social media DMs as if it were me. It would save me more time, he said, which was tempting: I answered all of them for a long time, and it took up a lot of brain space.

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But then I realized, No, I can’t stop it! It may be efficient, but it will also cut a valuable channel for feedback. So I started drawing some lines again. I’m holding on to all my social media. I’m meeting more interesting people. When I go to an event, I spend a lot of time chatting. And I’m exploring some crazy ideas that can’t go anywhere – failures don’t waste time reminding yourself.

There is no perfect balance, but I encourage you to explore it yourself Which part of your work or life has become more efficient? What solution has caused another problem? There is no practical way to answer this question – but I guess that’s the point.

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