Charlotte Rush14 June 2017

Are you effective or efficient?

A few weeks ago, Inventium was lucky enough to host Dom Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlasssian. We learned a lot from Dom, but one area of discussion which really stood out was the notion of efficient vs. effective operations.

When you think of an efficient business, what comes to mind? You might think of maximum productivity, churning out as many widgets as possible – in essence, operating much like a factory where output is the sole key performance indicator. As Dom put it, a world focused on efficiency is one which harks back to the boom time of the industrial revolution. In an efficient world, control and proof is good. Got a new idea you want to implement? Great! Show me the data and the proof that it will work, and then we will implement it.

The problem with this is that operating in a world which is chiefly concerned with efficiency has significant implications for how we make decisions as innovators. In an efficient world, predictability and proof guide our decision making. So much so, that all we end up doing is the same as we did last week, or last year (or wherever you pulled that historical data from). In the context of innovation, where value ultimately comes from generating and implementing new ideas, this is certain to lead us to a dead end.

In the world we live in today, where the rate of change both inside and outside of an organisation is increasing at an exponential rate, Dom argues that we need to be operating in an effective world, not an efficient world. In the context of innovation, operating in an effective world means adopting an experimental mind-set. It means taking an idea, one that your gut is leading you towards, (for more on trusting your gut, check out our eNews on Your Unconscious Mind), trying it and then listening. If it works well, keep doing more of it. If not, pivot or iterate, and continue to learn.

So, does your team have a desire to be effective, but is stuck in the world of efficiency? One recommendation from Dom, that is seconded by Jeffrey Bezos (Founder and CEO at, is to encourage your teams to make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Don’t settle for decision quality, push for decision velocity too.


Encourage your team to recognise that many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. A one-way door is one where, if you go through, you cannot come back. A two-way door is one where you can go through, but if what you see on the other side is not appealing, you can come back, learn and change.

In addition to making high-velocity decisions, teams need to be good at quickly recognising and correcting bad decisions. As Bezos says “If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.” (Check out Jeff’s 1997 letter to Amazon shareholders here).

So, if you find your team faced with a decision and standing before that room of doors; give yourselves a sense-check and ask “Are these two-way doors?”. If they are two-way, just make the decision. Just do it – because if you just walk through the door, you will learn so much more.

Does your team need support in adopting an experimental mind-set? We can help! Reach out here to start a conversation with one of our Inventiologists.


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