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The Mother of Invention

May 16, 2020 05:28 PM Comment(s) By Amy

Necessity versus Laziness

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is something we're all used to hearing. But there's some argument to be made that laziness is the mother of invention.  Think about the kitchen for a minute.  Dish washers.  Do you really need one?  No, not really. My mother has one and uses it for storage because she prefers to wash everything by hand.  I, on the other hand, wash some things by hand (the good knives, or things that specifically say hand wash), but otherwise I use the dishwasher all the time.  And I am perfectly willing to own that laziness.  Now think about the refrigerator.  That's a lot more of a necessity.  Without refrigeration, food spoils.  There aren't a lot of options around this, unless you live in Alaska and bury your food in the snow to keep it cold.  The moose thank you ahead of time for doing this.

We've been working a little bit on both of these around the office lately.  For my part, I'm firmly planted in the laziness pot right now.  For the purpose of sounding more professional, I'm going to refer to this as "increasing output through efficiency optimization".  Now the next time you see a phrase like that on a resume, you'll know what it really means - you're welcome.  So what have I been doing?  Well, last fall we converted our entire accounting system to an online platform, and it's been AMAZE-BALLS!  It's not that our old system was bad, or even necessarily time consuming since I only spent about an hour a month working on it.  But the accounting was one of those tasks that I had to take a deep breath and psych myself up for because it was just annoying to deal with and had a ton of little steps to complete it.  So we switched platforms, I automated several of the tasks, and my life got easier.  Even now, 6 months later, I'm still finding new features and things I can automate, and each one removes a few minutes of work from my monthly responsibilities.  It's glorious.  There are lots of other projects I've been doing in this same "automating annoying work" category.  The goal is that I'll have more time to spend on new features and innovation, and catching up on Netflix.

Meanwhile, my partner in crime has been spending his time on the "necessity" projects, like converting to API.  That's a lot more technical and a lot more boring to write and read, so I'll leave it at that.  Suffice it to say that this is really less a post about whether necessity or laziness is the mother of invention and more like a proclamation that together they are the mother and father, in a collaborative partnership.

So where am I going with this?  I've been thinking a lot lately about how the pandemic will impact businesses in the long term.  We're already seeing things like Twitter announcing that all employees can work from home forever.  But what else is to come, and which category will it fall into?  My initial reaction is that necessity is driving everything right now.  For example, the conference industry across all types of businesses needs to figure out how to successfully hold virtual Vendor Expos.  Not only is this close to my heart because it's a great sales channels for us, but the host industries makes of lot of money in sponsorship and over-charging on booth fees and such. So I have a feeling effort is being spent in this space already.  I foresee that after a lot of these types of problems are solved, the efficiency inventors will jump in for the ride.  I'm not at all sure what those efficiencies look like yet either.  But after all, if you can't get the mundane work out of the way quickly, there won't be any time left to go outside and enjoy the abundance of fresh air due to reduced traffic.

Stay safe.