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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Inventiveness and the noble art of shirking

This post isn't meant to be politically motivated, but politicians right now do seem obsessed with "work" in a Dickensian sense:  hard work; dividing the population into two disparate groups: those striving to get by and shirkers.

The problem? It's nearly 150 years since Dickens died and automation means only a modest portion of the total workforce is required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services needed to keep the country running.

That is, we aren't all needed to tend to the fields and keep the factories running in order to make sure the population is fed and clothed.

And as machines get cleverer and more versatile even fewer workers will be required for essential jobs.

The problem with the Victorian juxtaposition of hard work and valour is twofold.  It rewards needless labour and stigmatises those who struggle to find a way to make themselves useful.

And it can end up punishing some sections of society in a perverse way - notably those who care full time for a relative or child.

Should these people be forced against their wishes to work, leaving their loved one in the care of a stranger?

Logically it makes no sense; swapping one person's labour for another so that the one more suited through a family bond can go and earn money to pay for the labour of another to look after their relative.

Laziness, the root of all evil?

I'm incredibly lazy - at times.  I've been known to put-off boring tasks for months.  Yet I've worked round the clock - literally - on some projects to ensure things that need to happen do happen.

How I respond to "work" is pretty much based on the reward on offer.

And reward is a complex equation, not a chunk of money.

Reward can be intellectual nourishment or satisfaction in some way, knowing I've solved a problem or made life easier for myself and others in future.

What I see as my inherent laziness often drives my inventive side.  Many years ago I was tasked with a very tedious job setting up and running software tests using a complex, buggy, outdated and laborious system.

At 24 I was mortified that my new relatively senior job at a major company had been reduced to following a long list of detailed instructions; effectively pressing the right button at the right time.

And I was horrified that no-one had found the time to fix the situation.

I didn't want to do this well-paid job but my manager at the time wouldn't listen to reason.  Do the assigned work or get fired (I was on a 3-month trial).

Was I a shirker?  Probably.

I just couldn't be bothered to do this mind-numbing task, doing pretty-much nothing for a week, before resolving to re-write the whole system - no small feat given the size of the project I was working on.

But I was already behind on running the tests, so I worked 14-hour days to automate the testing process, leaving a legacy saving effort on future projects and bagging a promotion.

If it wasn't for my laziness I'd have done it the way it had always been done - the hard way.


1 comment:

  1. The work ethic is a cover for slavery your donkey on two legs to be worked to death.


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