Recession Duress? Work Smarter, Not Harder

Recessions suck. Layoffs suck. But what about the "lucky ones" who sustain employment amidst downsizing? Life can suck for them, too.

Being a New Yorker, I've talked recently with many in job turmoil, from industries like media, advertising, banking and the arts. Nearly everyone who escapes layoffs acknowledges their fortune -- though they also confess duress, as they're expected to do more with less.

Doing more with less? There's a short-term flaw in how many organizations and workers adapt. Too often they try to maintain the status quo -- including the type and quantity of output -- with fewer resources.

While efficiencies can be achieved by working harder, you can only stretch so much. It's more important to be smart and focus on the right things. And the right things today may be different than what was right in the past. This often means you must adapt your product and output, or even reinvent it.

Consider a squirrel whose forest has turned into a dense suburb. That squirrel can probably maintain its regular supply of nuts by searching harder amidst fewer trees -- for a limited time.



However, a smart squirrel will acknowledge its new human surroundings and discover more and even better nuts and other snacks in other places, like trash cans, under picnic tables and from curious squirrel-loving humans who feed them.

Of course, this idea is not new. But people don't seem to get this concept like they should. And they should get it, now more than ever.

10 comments about "Recession Duress? Work Smarter, Not Harder".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., January 22, 2010 at 12:09 p.m.

    Consider a squirrel ....huh?

  2. Rosanne Gain from Gain - Stovall, Inc., January 22, 2010 at 12:39 p.m.

    Thanks for the article . Have shared on the Gain-Stovall Facebook page, we all need to be reminded of this.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 22, 2010 at 12:53 p.m.

    Consider how many more people shoo that squirrel or try to rid the community of their community. Squirrels are rodents. The expression of those who are squirrelers are those who feed off of other people so they don't have to work. Want to try again? Those smart older squirrels with a resume of non digital newspaper experience is a dead squirrel. Young humans do not love them or acknowledge them. See MediaPosts Engage Boomers.

  4. Jay Becker from additive, January 22, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.

    Where I see the breakdown, is that working smarter is always thought to be via technology. I applaud technology;However, it is this lack of need for a human that has helped to lead us to a business model that is basically unsustainable. We brandish this sustainability term around as if it only deals with the Mother Earth. The reaity is that we have, and continue to foster a business model that sees "ease of use" as the only route. "Get new technology, and we can free up 3 jobs saving resourses. So where do those displaced go? Innovation is near its all time low. Banks won't lend, VC's are vultures, so tell me Max where does working smarter, fit in with a model in which jobs are created? And by all means where should all of the "nut grabbers" move to find the nuts that the other 6 million have not found and been displaced from?

  5. Andrew Mintz from, January 22, 2010 at 1:36 p.m.

    Max, is this a new twist to an Aesop Fable? Sing to the tune in winter that you played in the summer? Tell the squirrel to find a new park, since the one you've been in has been raised due to urban development. Which leads us to Avatar. Can one change fast enough to survive in new media?

  6. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., January 22, 2010 at 7:31 p.m.

    On the other hand, I've been hearing this "work smarter" stuff for at least 30 years. Fact is, in some circumstances, you may already be working as smart as you can. Pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is a physical impossibility that sounds good to someone who isn't being asked to do it. One time, we went to a guy for help because we were having a problem, and he said, in a very superior tone, "Didn't you have a 'Plan B'?" Our answer was that HE was "Plan C."

  7. George Watson from Plain English, January 23, 2010 at 9:31 a.m.

    You could write a book...

    Drawing on old adages, the one about, 'hard to remember the objective was to drain the swamp when you're up to your ass in allegators' seems to fit most people I know. And the line - Tell me something I DON'T know. ;-)

    I think you just pointed out another problem in where we are racing to, often blindly. We just keep tuning out content, products and services hoping someone knows where we are going and why. Some believe the Market provides all the direction we need, and some are a little smarter. But the squirrel analogy seems loaded with unintended implications.

    So before we over analyze the mundane, try to get beyond the last 15 minutes of duress, and see the terrible and unnecessary tragedy just visited on America through irresponsibility (partly yours), greed (also partly yours), and lack of honest leadership (maybe not yours).

    Folks, we're failing Democracy 2.0. Working smarter does mean knowing what's important to work on. You have homework to do. Get to it!

  8. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, January 24, 2010 at 9:52 a.m.

    Should have worked a little harder on this insipid drivel, Max.

  9. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, January 25, 2010 at 4:09 a.m.

    Paula made a good point - the analogy of older people adapting like squirrels for the new "humans" to feed them scraps was unfortunate. But the article is otherwise fantastic, well-written.

  10. Richard Monihan, January 25, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.

    Anyone who, like I did, grew up in a rural environment will understand the analogy used here. I was used to seeing all kinds of animals visit our yard in search of "extras". There was still plenty of woodland food - but having humans around provided easy access to other "stuff".

    As I've moved into suburbia, it's even more evident that animals adapt to the changing landscape. I have raccoons, a fox, opossum, deer, and turkeys wandering into my neighborhood. I don't live in a heavily wooded area. A mile away, bear have been sighted (a bit more disturbing, but still essentially indicative of their ability to find food where it's readily available).

    Humans have an intrinsically linear thought pattern - if this is how things have been done, then any alteration is "problematic". Not so! In fact, the tired adage of "Crisis is opportunity" remains even more in effect today than ever before. The issue isn't WHAT you've done in the past - it's HOW you define what you're doing and thinking about new ways of doing it.

    Easier said than done. But certainly not impossible. Supposedly we humans are smarter than all those dumb animals - right?

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