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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

Laziness if the Father of Innovation

Why It’s Time to Become Your Company’s Chief Laziness Officer

Most of the work you do is not important and in fact slows you down…

My first real job was working for a large computer manufacturer in their production control department.

After two months there, the department head called me into his office and told me I was the laziest person he’d ever met. And he meant this as a compliment.

When I first started this job, I worked 50 hours a week and my direct supervisor worked 60 hours a week.

Then, after a month, I was notified that my supervisor was laid off and I was to inherit all of his work. Faced with having to work 110 hours a week, I decided to take a hard look at what we were doing. In the past, I just did what I was told to do.

Over the course of a weekend, I analyzed all of the activities I now needed to perform. I discovered that only 20 percent of my work was high value add. This was the only work I really needed to do. The remaining 80 percent of my work fell into a few categories:

  • Low Value Work – Many activities seemed to add little or no value. Although we had done these in the past, they were apparently no longer necessary. I stopped doing these activities immediately and waited for someone to complain. No one ever did.
  • Someone Else’s Work – Several activities were really the responsibility of another department or individual. Therefore, I worked to get these activities assigned to the correct parties. Not only did this reduce my workload, but it also reduced the overall time required by the company as a whole. When the right person is doing the right work, it is always more efficient.
  • Manual Work to Be Automated – A large number of “transactional” activities were done manually and were candidates for automation. None of these activities were particularly complicated. Therefore, I wrote some simple computer programs in a matter of hours that automated these processes. Back in those days, we used punch cards, so it was more complicated then than it is now!

After only two days of analysis and work, I managed to get my workload from 110 hours to 20 hours.

This drastic reduction in work is the reason my boss called me lazy. In fact, he designated me as the department’s Chief Laziness Officer. My role was to go around and find inefficiencies in the work being done and help others become more efficient.

How can you become your company’s Chief Laziness Officer?

Look at your work activities.

  • What work do you do that is non-value add? Stop doing it!
  • What work do you do that others should do? Reassign that work to the appropriate party.
  • What work do you do that others can do? Delegate or outsource these activities. Get a “virtual assistant” to do your routine activities. Partner with someone who might be better skilled to do this activity.
  • What work can be automated? Buy off-the-shelf software to help speed things up. Or find someone who can build you a custom application. With gig-economy websites like,, and, there are a so many inexpensive ways to outsource work.

Focus your energies on the items that truly add value and differentiate you from the competition. Eliminate, automate, or delegate the rest.

The goal is not to do more with less. You should strive to do less and get more.

This article originally appeared on the Inc. website