Why You Should Play With Knives

Have you ever tried cutting thick rope? Well it’s hard. How about doing it thirty times in a row? Even harder. I can answer yes to both of these. But doing this taught me a very valuable lesson of the difference between being effective and being efficient.

Peter Drucker explains the difference this way:

Efficiency is doing things right.

Effectiveness is doing the right things.

There’s a big difference in that, and I’ll expand on that now.

My Story:

For my previous internship at Convene, a random task I was asked to do was to cut rope for them for a visual demonstration they wanted to use it for. This was based on Francis Chan‘s illustration exemplifying our time on earth in comparison to eternity. (Click here to see Francis’ video).

So cutting rope is not an easy thing. I started out using a wood burner with a small sharp tipped blade, but it took forever to cut and burn the rope using this, something like 6 minutes for each piece of rope – way too long of time… I was determined to make it faster though.

I thought if I could just better position all my tools and materials or keep the burner hotter, then I’d be doing the right thing and make good improvements.

Little did I know I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was using the wrong tools. It was like using scissors to mow a lawn – tedious and terrible.

Listening to my boss’ advice, the next day I went and got a big X-Acto knife to cut it and a coworker brought in a little blow torch. With these tools, I could make the pieces of rope in about 18 seconds.

What a huge change! That’s 20 times faster!

When I shifted away from caring about how to become most efficient with the tools I had to thinking about if I even had the right tools is when I crossed the line from efficient to effective.

My Lesson Learned:

I could’ve kept trying all I wanted to improve my materials’ positioning or I could’ve gotten the right tools. Thankfully, I switched to getting the right tools.

This shows the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Rearranging my materials to a better position (becoming more efficient by doing things right) only got me so much. It’s when I evaluated if I was even doing the right thing and using the right tools that I actually got to effectiveness.

Efficiency is good and helpful, but it will only get you so far. Focusing on effectiveness is so much more important if you actually want to dramatically improve.

I’d encourage you to focus on being effective in your life. This is where real and impressive change will come about. And in time, efficiency will naturally come as well.

So go ahead and play with the knives in your life to see if they are even the correct ones to be using!

What’s an example from your life where you focused on efficiency instead of effectiveness? Share your story by commenting below.