George Gilder on Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

In his latest book, Wealth and Poverty: A New Edition for the Twenty-First Century, George Gilder weighs in on the efficiency vs. effectiveness debate, validating my matrix on the difference:

Firms at the top of their S-curves of growth: the time when innovation dwindles and heavily bureaucratized companies seek minor new adaptations, packaging changes, and manufacturing efficiencies in order to wring the last gains of productivity from an essentially static industry that has already long passed its phase of “fast history.”

Auto companies at the very pinnacle of productivity had lost all room to maneuver. New developments almost never emerge from the leading companies in an industry. None of the carriage makers and buggy whip producers could create a salable automobile, and the gaslight and candle businesses neglected the promise of electricity; slide rule people at Keuffel and Esser succumbed without response to the handheld calculator; just as IBM lagged behind other companies in adopting most major innovations in business machines, from copiers to word processors; and as even Texas Instruments finally became relatively rigid and uncreative in the microprocessor field.

The very process of rationalization and bureaucracy by which a company becomes the most productive in an industry tends to render it less flexible and inventive. An exclusive preoccupation with statistical productivity—simple coefficients between inputs and outputs—can lead to a rigid, and in the long run, unproductive economy.


This is precisely why we warn firms to avoid putting efficiency ahead of effectiveness.

Any industry at the apogee of efficiency is an industry in decline.

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