Sunday, October 19, 2008

Growing by Shrinking

We're in the midst of watching our economy contract. These are frightening times, uncertain times for many people. I was inspired by Nicholas Kristof's column this week as he attempted to find a bright spot in all the gloom that is filling our news channels and our own minds. I was flipping through Business Week and saw an ad for IBM with the following headline in bold type: "Sometimes Growing Starts With Shrinking". How can we connect Kristof's ideas and the IBM ad? 

Aside from our economy, I have been thinking about examples of shrink leading to growth. The ipod - making our music libraries physically shrinking from 100's or 1000's of albums, tapes, and CDs into one powerful device helped Apple find new life. The same can be said of many electronics such as cell phones and computers. 
Let's consider travel. There have been a myriad of articles that encourage travelers to select a few key cities for a vacation and take in all they have to offer rather than doing a whirlwind trip and only skimming the surface of many cities. It creates more powerful and lasting memories, not to mention providing for some relaxation - the whole purpose of many vacations. 

Another example that struck me was all of the research being done now on multi-tasking. By attempting to do many things at once, it turns out that we do all of them more poorly than we could if we focused on one at a time. I notice this all of the time at work as I'm trying to balance a whole host of projects and objectives. Some studies even show that a lack of focus caused by multi-tasking increases stress levels, worsening general health levels, and lowering IQs.    

Now consider our economy: Think about the benefit of shrinking our spending to increase our savings. Barry Schwartz talks about shrinking the number of options we consider as a means of being happier with the choices we make. And then one of my favorite mantras can bring an immeasurable amount of peace to your life: simplify, simplify, simplify.

All of this is meant to show that shrinking isn't always bad and can even be good for us if we're willing to put aside our belief that bigger and more always equals better. Sometimes doing and having less provides abundance in ways we never expected.   

No comments: