The Lazy Man's Way Of Working

Bill Gates famously said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Robert Heinlein, the renowned science-fiction writer, said “Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”  Mind, neither of them encouraged procrastination. Laziness in itself isn’t productive, unless it’s combined with creativity and a drive to work smart, not hard.

Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord was a 20th century German general. He had a particularly interesting model for classifying army officers: "I distinguish four types. There are clever, hardworking, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and hardworking; their place is the General Staff. The next ones are stupid and lazy; they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the mental clarity and strength of nerve necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is both stupid and hardworking; he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always only cause damage”.

It’s not too difficult to interpret this for modern organisations. If you happen to see similarities with Covey’s urgent/important matrix for effectiveness, that’s not a coincidence... 


Highest-value focus.
Simplify, automate, eliminate.
Proactive Preventers

Driven, but silo’d.
Reliable but lacking initiative.

Reactive Solvers


Complaints but no solutions.
Pending automation.

Uninterested Executors

Compulsive meeting-goers.
Dedicated bureaucrats.

Busy Non-Achievers



We evolved to conserve energy, and solve problems. Lazy smart people know a problem prevented is a problem solved forever. One chemical plant operator said: “knowledge management is a lazy man’s way of working.” It enables lazy smart people to leverage experience - theirs and the group’s - to their benefit.

Lazy smart people know building an FAQ prevents having to answer the same question over and over again. They know asking “who has already done this” prevents having to figure it out themselves. Lazy smart people don’t crave the validation that ‘problem solvers’ do. They take the time to save time.

Do you want to leverage knowledge more effectively, and work smarter? Let's talk.

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