Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sometimes Efficiency Can Be Counterproductive

A few years back, I read about an Indian retail entrepreneur who wanted to bring western style shopping experience to the 350 million strong Indian middle class consumers. He put wide aisles in the store, arranged everything on shelves and labelled them clearly for people to shop efficiently and leave. His shop was a failure. People came for the novelty and left without buying much. So he invited a local retail expert and asked for help. The expert advised him to narrow the aisles, create artificial congestion in certain areas and, put items on the floor deliberately without labeling them. The entrepreneur followed the advise and his sales went up. His business thrived.

He was puzzled but learned an important lesson. Efficiency is not everything. Some times you have to slow things down, let people stumble into each other, create an opportunity for them to connect, have a conversation, exchange ideas and thoughts and enjoy being part of a community.

We followed some of these principles while designing Career OnDemand. Early on, @enricgili and I realized that we are not building a personal productivity tool for individuals. We were not automating a process that is inefficient. Instead we are building a tool to enable people connect with each other and have a conversation about the things that matter to them at work.
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