One of the biggest myths around is that the impact or importance of a project is tied directly to its budget.
This thinking isn’t just wrong, it’s causing tremendous waste in almost every aspect of our lives—from the decisions our governments make to the things that impact our happiness day-to-day.
The simple tools, the very first forms of technology, amplified human abilities—made us more efficient—as does today’s technology. The problem is that it’s easy to think that the solution is always more: more complexity, money budget, more people. It’s time to take stock of all the incredible tools we have and ask ourselves: where can we solve old problems in new ways to do more with less? Let’s look at three categories where we can do more with less: details, technology, and distribution.
The rules of scale have changed: throwing money at problems is no longer an effective way to solve them. Instead of judging solutions on cost or input, judge them on their results.
First is the importance of details. There’s a fantastic TED talk in which Rory Sutherland, the vice-chairman of the Ogilvy Group, argues that every company should have a chief detail officer to “sweat the small stuff.” No one wants to believe that the solution to a poor customer experience could be as easy as changing the design of signs, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Similarly, we at T4G have argued that even little things like how quickly a page loads or how crisply a headline is written can make a big difference in how people interact with a brand online. Compared to building an e-commerce site, load testing or some extra editing are incredibly small expenditures but they directly and materially affect the customer experience. We should be looking for more small tweaks like these to make our good work that much better.
Second is technology. Technology and efficiency seem permanently woven together as concepts: as technology gets better, fewer people can accomplish more, and accomplish it more quickly. While this type of automation is dramatically disrupting employment for unskilled workers, it’s allowing everyone to enjoy products and services at lower prices and in new venues. While people (myself included) may disagree that facebook is worth $100 billion dollars, the fact is that a team of less than 4,000 people were able to create and distribute a product that over 900,000,000 people use and enjoy. It’s hard to argue with numbers like that. This radical ratio in scale should be a template for our government service delivery: people tend to think of government spending only in terms of “do more with more” or “do less with less,” but years of private sector innovation is showing us that it’s possible and plausible to “do more with less.” It’s politics that’s keeping us from having our cake and eating it too.
Finally is distribution. It’s no longer essential to spend untold millions of dollars making potential customers aware of the latest and greatest product. Instead, it’s much easier to build or do something worth talking about. Consider what Pepsi has been up to recently: for what must be less than the cost of a traditional 30 second ad spot, they put together a very clever and entertaining video and released it on YouTube with minimal branding. No big push, no big spend, just a great idea worth talking about. If they had released the same video front-loaded with a 15 or 30 second paid ad, it’s unlikely they would have gotten anywhere near the 12,000,000 free impressions they’re currently enjoying.
The rules of scale have changed: throwing money at problems is no longer an effective way to solve them. Instead of judging solutions on cost or input, judge them on their results. Technologists like software engineers and computer scientists are a big part of the answer. But often times other perspectives will be required to pick the smallest move with the biggest impact. We need to look for ways to do more with less. It’s harder than ever, but it’s now the easiest it’s ever been.