Of Quookers and Kettles or The Inefficiency of Efficiency.

An office I worked in installed a lovely boiling water tap, a Quooker. It was amazing, boiling water as soon as the tap was turned on. Tea was prepared in no time at all and people were free to get on with whatever they were doing. It was a major efficiency boost and pretty cool to boot.

Now I’ll tell you a tale of a maturing startup suffering growing pains. A clued up agile tech team suddenly at the mercy of a tyrannical HR department who failed to see the value in all the milling about and chatting (cause that’s basically agile right?). The tea room became a sanctuary where it was still acceptable to talk to friends and colleagues, foster relationships and discuss the vexing problems of the day.

Making a cup of tea, boiling the kettle, letting it brew, ten minutes away from your desk. Rarely are you on your own, the kitchen is a popular place, the kettle boils more water than you need, but not necessarily enough for everyone who wants it. You’re going to need to talk to one another, collaborate and maybe engage in a random act of kindness.

There we have it, the magic of the kitchen, the great leveller, the one place that everyone visits.

So, which is more efficient, a quick chat in the tea room when you’ve all stepped away from your desk or a half hour planned meeting that interrupts you mid-flow? Those efficiencies aren’t stacking up quite so well.

When you are trying to foster team collaboration remember it’s often the mundane tasks that bond us, not the grand gestures. These tasks can become rituals that bond teams further. Are your efficiencies hostile to collaboration?

Are you losing the opportunity for an interaction?

So next time you are looking for efficiency be mindful of the cost. Are you losing the opportunity for an interaction? Are you introducing unexpected inefficiencies?