I think one of the biggest tensions I run into – or at least one I think about a lot – is the conflict between inclusion and efficiency.
In high school, my government teacher was an aid for a State Rep. in California. (I took this class at a community college rather than at my high school). He talked a lot about how the state government worked, and sometimes complained about how long it took to get anything done.
But what I remember most is that even in complaining about the inefficiency of the system, he was quick to point out:
The system is inefficient, but it was intentionally designed that way.
The inefficiency ensures time for discussion. For deliberation. For ensuring that what seemed like a good idea actually is a good idea.
The inefficiency is good.
In my currently life, practicing the dark arts of marketing – even for the power of good – I find I’m often trying to create the illusion of inclusion while secretly plotting for the power of efficiency.
That is to say, I often need buy-in from people whom I don’t really have the time to get buy-in from.
When I plan a project, I try to think about who needs to know what when or how to generate buy-in and a sense of inclusion among core constitutents.
But I tend to think in terms of impediments which make the process inefficient, rather than as valuable insights that make the end product better.
Now, to be fair, it depends on the project, the people, and the context I’m working in – sometimes I really do need people’s input. But sometimes – just sometimes – I include people because I’m thinking that ultimately I need them to be on board and talking to them now will create the impression they were consulted.
It’s no wonder I generally assume public processes are a sham.
I’d be a terrible city planner.
Sure, I’d listen intently to the input of the average citizen, but really the process of asking for their input is there just so they feel like they were involved. So they’re not surprised by the end result. So they feel, falsely, that they were part of the process.
And making them feel that was restores efficiency, because when the project is being implemented, they have less room to complain. After all, they were part of the process.
In case you’re wondering, my devotion to efficiency is roughly reason #46 that I’m a terrible person.
But the good news is that the first step is admitting you have a problem