Is the Age of Efficiency over?

The new year always brings in new thoughts and new plans for me. What about you? What are you thinking about changing in this new year? And, Happy New Year to you. Victor Hwang writes in Forbes about the underlying spirit behind the start up movement around the world.

The Startup Movement is like a reboot of the human spirit.  Gary Whitehill, who has launched a series of Entrepreneur Weeks around the world, calls the era we are leaving behind the Age of Efficiency.”  I think he’s right.  We are moving from an economic model that treats individuals as replaceable cogs in an anonymous yet efficient system, to one that recognizes that individuals are the only ones who can make the system better through their innovations, inventions, and creations.

The truth is efficiency or doing things faster, cheaper, better in solving social problems can’t work. We have examples of that everywhere. In the developed world, the child protection challenges, indigenous people’s standard of life, ageing challenges are growing by the day. In the developing world, basic water, electricity, education, primary health are missing. These are challenges that cannot be solved by doing what we are doing faster, cheaper, better. To be effective, we need a different way of solving these problems. That is innovation.

The age of efficiency is clearly over. Part of the work for innovators like you is to sell the need for innovation, the need for effectiveness vs efficiency. One challenge that you will clearly face straight away is the discussion around cost. One of the assumptions behind efficiency is about driving down costs. But, who says innovation is not about driving down cost? If you look at what IKEA, the global furniture company, includes in its scope for any new product - price of the final product on the shelf. The designer needs to think about raw materials, manufacturing, production, marketing and other costs when creating the product. Cost is a design constraint. That is the best way to think about it. It is part of the innovation output. So, go ahead, lets make innovation the key focus in 2014 to make the world a better place.

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