When it comes to engagement, efficiency can be a remarkably poor way of accomplishing things. It may be good for getting specific things done, but for engaging people or offering them ways to grow and learn, efficiency just isn’t very efficient.
On a Nova Scotia Sea School adventure voyage, the food for the teenage crew is kept in watertight plastic buckets. The Sea School’s boat is completely open to the weather, and everything gets wet and stepped on. The buckets protect food and gear for the week-long voyage.
Each bucket has all the food for a single meal, so the buckets are labeled “Dinner Day 1” or “Breakfast Day 5”. Some instructors like to load the food buckets into the boat in order, so the first meal is forward at the bow, the second meal next to it and so on. That way it’s easy to find the appropriate meal.
Other instructors let the crew load the buckets haphazardly, in no order at all. They don’t do this because they’re lazy or disorganized, but because without a system the crew has to have a greater awareness of where things are. When the cooks ask, “Where’s Day 4?” at dinner time, the crew goes into search mode. Either someone knows because they were paying attention, or no one knows and we all have to look, reminding us that it helps to pay attention.
This is an inefficient way of finding the food but a very efficient way of developing an awareness of what’s going on. People who focus on getting things done are often not the best at working with the subtleties of other people’s state of mind. Having a state of mind that is attuned to what’s going on with the buckets is a step toward a state of mind that is attuned to what’s going on with ourselves, our shipmates, our society. If we want to shift our state of mind, it can help to leave efficiency behind.