by Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner
You start a new job with a new company. There are two employees in similar positions. They have both been with the company for several years. One is clearly hard working. She is constantly busy, juggles numerous tasks successfully and often stays late to get work done. The other seems much more relaxed. Indeed, she is often sharing jokes with her colleagues! She does not appear to work very hard, finishes tasks seemingly too quickly and is usually one of the first to leave the office at the end of the day. Which one should you emulate if you wish to do well in the company?
The seemingly lazy one, of course. Both have been with the company for some years, so you can assume that both are doing their job well. More importantly, you can assume that the apparently lazy one has worked out how to do her job efficiently, allowing her to work in a more relaxed way and go home at a reasonable hour daily.
creatively seeking the easy way /
In my experience,this is something creative people are very good at, particularly if they work in organizations which do give them new creative challenges on a regular basis. They use their creative skills to find short cuts in performing regular tasks and improving the efficiency of their area of operations.
In truth,it is not just creative people who are lazy. Humans are programed to be lazy and this is a good thing. When our prehistoric ancestors were hunting and gathering, the less work expended to kill and skin a mammoth or to collect fruit, the better. Even today, it is sensible to ask why you should spend four hours performing a task that you can complete sufficiently well in an hour.
followers or thinkers /
At work, when a new employee is shown how to perform a task, she will normally continue to do it in the way she was taught. This is not surprising. Most of us are taught to follow instructions, especially when a superior at work or school demonstrates tells us to do so.
But the creative individual is always questioning things and considering alternatives. She cannot help it. That’s how the creative mind is wired. She will try performing the task in different ways. Of course there are risks involved. An alternative approach to performing a four-hour task could prove more complicated than expected—and eat up eight hours of her time. She may be reprimanded by her superior for not doing the task in the prescribed manner. Worse, her method might not work at all, forcing her to start all over again.
However, this is normal for the creative person. Her curiosity and desire to explore alternatives is stronger than her sense of following instructions. Over time, she will try out various ways of performing tasks and will soon find the most efficient methods.
lessons to be learned /
As I wrote initially,if you are new to a company, do not look to the workaholics for advice on how to do your job well. Look to the laziest people. They will almost surely be able to show you the most efficient way to do your work well.
If you are an employer, on the other hand, those apparently lazy people are probably your most creative thinkers. When you need people with ideas for improving products, services and processes, be sure to include them in the teams responsible for developing these ideas. Moreover, be sure also to allow them to perform on these teams as they do on their tasks: let them try out ideas, see how they work, dispose of failed ideas and try out new ideas. This is how the creative process works.
Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of The Way of the Innovation Master and Report 103, creator of Jenni innovation process mgmt software & founder of jpb.com. Follow him on Twitter at @creativeJeffrey.