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✅ The Efficiency Paradox

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Efficiency has become an important buzzword today. From business executives to engineers and scientists, everyone is looking for ways to be more efficient. It’s not hard to see why — efficiency can lead to increased profits, improved productivity, and reduced waste. However, there is a paradox of efficiency that is often overlooked — the pursuit of efficiency can lead to less sustainable, less equitable, and less efficient outcomes.

With the rise of digital transformation in mainstream discourse, the future looks bright in how a truly digitally interconnected ecosystem helps accomplish this premise of doing more with less. Following in the footsteps of disruption and innovation that digital transformation brings, this article aims to ask the question — “To what end are we pursuing optimization and efficiency?”

The paradox of efficiency was brilliantly explored by Edward Tenner in his TED Talk. Tenner explains that efficiency is a double-edged sword — while it can bring about many benefits, it can also have unintended consequences. One of the main issues with pursuing efficiency is that it often leads to a narrow focus on short-term gains at the expense of long-term sustainability.

This is especially true when it comes to the environment. Many businesses and individuals pursue efficiency to consume more and generate more profits. They may seek efficiency to reduce waste and improve productivity, but they are simply consuming more resources at a faster rate. This can have devastating effects on the environment, as natural resources are depleted, and waste accumulates. Furthermore, the benefits of increased efficiency are often enjoyed by a select few, while the costs are borne by society.

The pursuit of efficiency is not inherently bad. However, it is important to consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We must ask ourselves why we are pursuing efficiency — is it for selfish reasons, or is it to create a more sustainable and equitable world? If our goal is the latter, then we must look beyond short-term gains and consider the impact of our actions on future generations.

One way to shift our focus towards sustainability and equity is by taking inspiration from the benefits of fasting. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food for a period, often for improving overall health and wellbeing. There are countless well-documented benefits to fasting, including but not limited to: weight loss and improved metabolism, improved cardiovascular health, improved brain function, improved immune function, and anti-aging effects by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

symbolic representation of fasting

Fasting can also offer valuable insights into the benefits of conscientious and deliberate consumption of all things. By consuming less, we can reduce our impact on the environment and create a more equitable world. Digital transformation is an absolute necessity for humanity to effectively do more with less and reduce waste by seeing what the data tells us where we are consuming far more than necessary. Fasting from consumerism offers similar benefits. By consuming less, we can reduce our carbon footprint and generate less waste.

We can also redirect our resources towards more sustainable and equitable practices. On a micro level, instead of buying a new phone every year, we can invest in repairing and upgrading our current device. On a macro level, designing cities, decommissioning unsalvageable buildings, retrofitting existing infrastructure, and shifting away from private ownership of infrastructure promotes sustainable long-term growth.

This not only reduces waste, but also supports local businesses and reinforces the careful consideration of the circular economy. Innovation is born out of necessity and passion, which is why remarkable technology like the Framework laptop and Fairphone exist.

Another way to shift our focus towards sustainability and equity is by rethinking the way we approach digital transformation. The pursuit of digital transformation can also lead to unintended consequences. For example, simply running a production machine 24/7 may seem like an efficient use of resources.

In reality, it is oftentimes more costly and less productive than periodically taking the machine down for maintenance and adapting to availability of raw materials by allowing the environment to heal post resource extraction. By neglecting maintenance, the machine is more likely to break down, leading to costly repairs and downtime. In addition, the constant use of the machine may lead to increased wear and tear, reducing its lifespan and requiring more frequent replacements, which leads to further environmental damage.

The key to avoiding the paradox of efficiency in digital transformation is to consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We must take a holistic approach to digital transformation, considering not only the short-term gains, but also the long-term impact on sustainability and equity. This may mean investing in more efficient technology, but it may also mean rethinking our approach to work and production.

Circular economy infographic showing relation between inputs, production, distribution, usage, waste, and reuse

One way to achieve this is by embracing the concept of circular economy, which aims to minimize waste and maximize the use of resources. In a circular economy, materials are kept in use for as long as possible, and waste is minimized through reuse, repair, and recycling. This not only reduces our impact on the environment, but also creates new business opportunities and promotes economic growth.

Another way to achieve sustainability and equity is by promoting social and environmental responsibility in the workplace. This can be done by implementing sustainability policies and practices, promoting diversity and inclusion, and investing in the education and well-being of employees. By doing so, businesses can create a culture of responsibility and accountability, and foster a more sustainable and equitable future.

Solution Proposal

To create a more sustainable and equitable future, we must go beyond the surface-level pursuit of efficiency and consider the deeper psychological and societal factors that contribute to our actions. One such factor is trauma, which can have a profound impact on our individual and collective psyches. Trauma affects our behavior, our relationships, and our ability to make long-term decisions that prioritize sustainability and equity.

One effective framework for addressing trauma is trauma-informed care. This approach is based on the understanding that trauma is pervasive, and everyone experiences trauma in their lives. This matter is further complicated by the fact that everyone responds differently to traumatic circumstances and its impact is different depending upon whether the individual was a child or an adult at the time of the event. Trauma-informed care involves creating a supportive environment that promotes healing and resilience through teaching effective self-regulating techniques and empowering people to solve problems through self-sufficient methods in order to implement rational solutions for long-term sustainability.

This approach can be applied in a variety of settings, from healthcare and education to business and community development. By incorporating trauma-informed care principles into our work, legislation, and personal lives, we can create a more compassionate and resilient society. This leads to improved mental health, better decision-making, a greater focus on sustainability and equity, and successful innovative businesses.

The key to understanding trauma is learning about the impact of stress on our individual and collective psyches. When we are under stress, our brains shift into survival mode, which can lead to short-term thinking and a focus on immediate needs rather than long-term goals.

We can apply the Tuckman model of group development to implement effective long-term pro-social changes because it offers us a scientific understanding of how stress affects people on a collective level. The Tuckman model is a well-known framework that describes the stages of group development and effective strategies to overcoming group obstacles. By understanding these stages of group development, we can create a more effective and sustainable approach to group work based on a scientifically sound foundation instead of platitudes and irrelevant cultural analogies..

For example, in the forming stage, we can establish clear goals and expectations for the group. In the storming stage, we can address any conflicts or challenges that arise in a constructive and respectful manner. In the norming stage, we can establish a sense of shared values and norms that guide our work. In the performing stage, we can work together to achieve our goals, while in the adjourning stage, we can reflect on our progress and celebrate our achievements, as well as offering support to assist people with the natural bereavement process that occurs after any group is disbanded.

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. - Lily Tomlin

By incorporating these frameworks into our work and personal lives, we can create a more sustainable and equitable society. We can address the impact of trauma, reduce stress levels, and implement effective long-term pro-social changes that prioritize sustainability and equity. Ultimately, by going beyond the surface-level pursuit of efficiency, we can create a brighter future for all.


In conclusion, the paradox of efficiency is a complex issue that requires critical thinking and a long-term perspective. I ask the question again but with a spin — To what end are we pursuing this efficiency and optimization? Is it so we can just continue consuming at a constant pace and being able to consume more in certain periods due to the optimization info our digitally transformed organization has gathered? Or is it instead to connect with prosocial values where conscientious decisions and mutual collaboration are deliberately baked in through prolonged periods of downtime to allow the environment and naturally occurring ecosystems a chance to heal from the inevitable damage we cause?

By embracing the concept of circular economy, promoting social and environmental responsibility in the workplace, and taking inspiration from the benefits of fasting, we can create a future that is not only more efficient, but also more just and equitable for all.

Thanks for tuning in. Critical discourse is encouraged and welcomed. See you in the next article.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not sponsored or influenced in any way, shape, or form by the companies and products mentioned. This is my own original content, with image credits given as appropriate and necessary.


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