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Efficiency vs. Disproportionate Results

I’ve noticed that very competent people tend to use one of two patterns for solving problems and creating value. Efficiency means taking a given objective and reducing the effort needed to achieve it–such as automating away a manual process, or creating a checklist to set up better parties. Disproportionate Results, a term used by Ramit Sethi, means searching for opportunities where you can spend two or three times the effort for ten times the result, such as searching for jobs by networking instead of sending resumes.

It seems to be pretty rare for people to use both. Programmers, analysts, and technical people tend to mostly have an efficiency mindset, while people working on marketing and business functions tend to have a disproportionate results mindset. Furthermore, people who’re approaching a similar problem using different mindsets often have a very hard time working together or understanding what the other person is trying to do. The person focusing on disproportionate results will often seem to be “moving the goalposts”, seeming to be inconsistent with their ideas and not knowing what they want to get done, while the person focusing on efficiency will look like they’re optimizing too early and not looking at the bigger picture.

This suggests one very simple thing you can do to improve your output and communication with others: first, figure out which mindset you tend to use. Then, spend a week trying the opposite. If you have an efficiency mindset, spend some time looking at the things that you’re trying to build and the value those things contribute, and see if there’s something different you could do that might be a bit more work but would be much more valuable. If you have a results mindset, try asking whether there are repeated processes that could be systematized or automated in order to dramatically reduce costs.

Categories: Career, Productivity