Shifting Your Focus from Short-Term Efficiency to Long-Term Resilience

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There are downsides to pursuing efficiency at all costs.

is professor emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He warns that an obsession with eliminating inefficiencies in U.S. companies has come with social and economic costs. He sees those downsides in everything from staffing to wages and even corporate debt levels. But he argues that it’s not too late for businesses to change their priorities.

ROGER MARTIN: Well, it’s like everything in life, I think. For almost everything in life, more is better up to a point when it ceases to be better. Love is a good thing. Right? But obsessive love is a bad thing, and it causes people to hurt one another, if not kill one another. And so, this is a case of, we have ridden, if you will, the horse of efficiency, to having a more productive economy.

CURT NICKISCH: How do you think we can start finding more balance in the system? I mean, capitalism is a ginormous ecosystem, and it just can feel like a big task to do this, to rebalance, as you might suggest. ROGER MARTIN: Well, I have, in the book I’ve got four recommendations for executives. One is this, what we’ve been talking about, which is recognize that slack is not the enemy to be eliminated. It is a variable to be kind of balanced with an eye to longer term resilience.


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