Laziness as a business asset

I am slightly nervous about writing this post. I am sure my boss will read it and I really do not want him to get the wrong idea. But I will crack on regardless.

Over the years I have commonly been involved in hiring staff. Typically, I would meet the person, and then spend the next couple of hours talking with them and perhaps showing them around. In many cases, within moments of meeting them, I would have reservations and spend the time trying to overcome my negative feelings about the candidate. I can think of no case where I had such feelings, hired the person anyway, and they went on to be very successful. On the other hand, I recall a couple of instances where my instant reaction, on meeting the candidate, was “yes!” I then spent the two hours sanity checking my gut reaction. In both those cases we hired the people who went on to be very valuable members of staff.
I have a new idea on how to select good people. It is all to do with how hard they work …

It would seem intuitive that the best people to hire are hard workers. But I would like to question that. A clue to my attitude comes from a slogan used by Hewlett Packard a few years back: “Work smarter, not harder”. [They now seem to have moved on to “Let’s do amazing”, which challenges me grammatically.]
My suggestion is that you look for smart, lazy people. This may sound odd. Smart is reasonable, but lazy!? The logic is simple: a lazy person, as long as they are intelligent, will always try to minimize the amount of work they have to do and they will achieve this in two ways:

  1. Look for the fastest and easiest way to achieve a result; i.e. the most efficient way to do a job. Would you prefer inefficiency?
  2. Obsessively avoid reinventing wheels and reuse work whenever possible [to avoid the effort of doing something new]. They will borrow/steal materials from colleagues. Being smart, they will realize that sharing their own documents, presentations etc. is a good way to encourage others to share too. Would you rather have a team who do redundant work and have a secretive attitude?

So, here is the action plan for hiring staff:

  • Are they smart? Check.
  • Are they lazy? Check.
  • Hired!

Comments

0 thoughts about “Laziness as a business asset
  • The person you describe sounds a bit like me. However, you won’t find me “obsessively” avoiding anything; it’s too much like hard work! I’ve re-invented many a wheel in my time because I judged it easier than finding someone else’s solution, understanding it, evaluating it, modifying it, implementing it and re-documenting it. Of course, I don’t really know how many more of what I took to be inventions were really re-inventions as well. Too lazy to find out, you see! Re-use has its uses but original thinking can often be more effective – even when the two occasionally lead to the same place.

  • Many years ago I read a quote from someone very high up in the German military. I cannot remember who, where or when, and I do not have a record of the quote. However, it went something like this:

    I divide my officers into four classes based on whether they are intelligent or stupid, and whether they are industrious or lazy.

    Firstly, those who are both stupid and industrious are a danger and must be removed immediately. Some use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy — they can be made to do menial work. The intelligent and industrious make the best staff officers. However, the intelligent and lazy make the best field officers and are destined for the highest command. They will find the shortest, simplest possible route to achieving their objectives.

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2010/06/24/laziness-as-a-business-asset/