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The laziness fallacy


When it comes to change, as a species, we are lazy. We are lazy for good reason – changing how we act or behave significantly increases our exposure to risk, and has a negative impact on the performance of what we do. We’re so lazy when it comes to change that we’ll often reject changes that in the long term will result in us expending less energy and effort because the short term additional costs are too great.

A number of years ago I was asked to provide time management training to a group of head office accountants at a big corporate client. Time management training is usually a cry for help from a group who are terminally drowning. We took the group away from their desks for the day, and helped them understand some of the basics – distinctions between busy and productive, between urgent and important, how to delegate and how to put new work patterns into action. None of it groundbreaking stuff.

Six weeks later I was asked to go to their offices in London to provide a bit of refresher training. That wasn’t a good omen. When half a dozen of the attendees said that they would dial into the session from their desks in the office because they were too busy

But if someone could be offered a fix to their busy-ness, they’d grab it with both hands, no? No.

I’m reminded of such things after a conversation last week with Aran Rees where we had a fundamental disagreement about the role and the future success of the iWatch Apple Watch. I think there are a stack of reasons to be cautious as to its success; Aran yesterday wrote that a solution for laziness is its most compelling feature.

Putting aside the massive cultural challenges that the Apple Watch has to climb, I don’t think that being a timesaver is a compelling enough reason for most people to want one – and more importantly for most people to actually adopt using one. It needs to have compelling desirability, and then compelling utility for it to become a mass success.

Smartphones came to the fore on the back of novelty and desirability, but were then able to do a stack of things substituting out a stack of other devices: MP3 players, phones, calendars, cameras… but even that substitution came over time, not immediately. Can something as small as a smartphone either do something unique so well that it becomes its Killer App, or a group of things in such a convenient package that it becomes embedded in many lives, or ideally both.

I’m well aware that by labeling smart watches as mere “Notification Devices with a bit of data gathering” I’m on the precipice of the same shortsightedness that described smartphones and tablets as “Media consumption devices with voice calling”. I’m sure I might well be wrong about the success of the Apple device. But for it to be a success because it’s a salve for laziness? Not a chance: we’re just too lazy for that one to work.


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