Thursday, March 26, 2009

Only the Resourceful Survive

I originally wrote this entry on September 15, 2004, and published it on

I drove my daughters back from El Camino Youth Symphony violin practice tonight and was wondering why we could not simply and conveniently ride a train home.

We were driving in my (still quite inefficient) compact European car, and with two additional passengers, I had the luxury of driving in the carpool lane. I don't often get to ride in the carpool lane. So, I was quite surprised when I kept passing the many, many SUVs in the non-carpool lanes, each with a single driver inside.

What an odd sight!

My immediate thought was whether we could claim to have an efficient economic organization in the Bay Area? I don't think so. (Given equal purchasing power, it still takes me less time and effort, per transaction, to buy a certain quantity of yogurt in Tehran, where I visit my grandmother, than it does in San Jose, where I live with my family.)

Note that I'm not criticizing SUV owners, drivers or buyers. People often own and use things that they believe they need. In fact, I constantly toy with the idea of owning an SUV. (It could make life much easier.) What I'm questioning is the organizational aspects that help drive and accentuate such needs at a larger level.

According to Chester Barnard, an organization has to be efficient or effective to survive. The more an organization lasts, the more efficient and effective it will have to be to continue surviving. Does Barnard's maxim hold about national or regional economies? It seems to me that it does to a very significant degree.

In the long run, only the resourceful organizations will survive. The wasteful ones are most likely to disappear, and disappear they will quite quickly.

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