George Washington Carver isn’t often remembered for his efficiency in the workplace, but there’s a lot to be learned from how he managed and adapted.
When you think of efficiency in the workplace, George Washington Carver probably doesn’t come to mind. Instead, he’s known for being the inventor of hundreds of uses of the peanut. However, he was an innovator and expert in efficiency years before that became the objective of many companies.
George Washington Carver was born a slave in the mid-1860s. He learned to read and write and began to study plants and herbs at an early age. Dr. Carver went on to receive a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Iowa State Agricultural School, now Iowa State University, where he found effective solutions to counter the impact of fungi on soy plantings. As he continued along this trajectory, he became well known as an agricultural scientist.
Later in his career, Dr. Carver’s productivity, as well as the wealth of efficient solutions he discovered and created, helped revolutionize the agricultural industry when it was in the process of being obliterated by insects destroying cotton crops. Regardless of his life as an inventor and an agricultural scientist, he focused strictly on serving the needs of those around him, which is a trait that never becomes obsolete. There are several takeaways from Dr. Carver’s illustrious career that are likely applicable to yours.
When Dr. Carver joined what later became the Tuskegee Institute, he was the director of the Agricultural Department and his departmental budget was seriously constrained. To counteract the severe monetary limitations, he had to be extremely resourceful. He engaged in recycling and repurposing decades before it became chic. To find equipment and other items for his research lab, Dr. Carver recycled or repurposed the items he found by searching the trash around the school and other areas around the surrounding town.
Instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, Dr. Carver focused on what he did have. By doing so, he was able to gain access to equipment and tools that otherwise would have been out of reach. As a business owner or manager, your takeaway is to see monetary and other problems and issues as challenges and not as impenetrable feats. All challenges have a solution, whereas a failure connotes the end. By deciding that a solution exists, you can generate similar effective and efficient solutions to the roadblocks you encounter.
Teach or Instruct
George Washington Carver also believed in teaching and instruction. Although he was a researcher, he was also a professor who enjoyed passing on knowledge to his students and others. In his entire career, he received only two patents but the hundreds of uses he discovered for various agricultural products were widely used in practical applications.
One takeaway from this is that teaching someone how to do something or explaining a complex concept to another helps illuminate additional applications for a concept or helps you better determine efficient solutions to a problem. This occurs because instructing and teaching often help you understand where your own knowledge gaps. The result is that teaching others, especially interactively, also helps you. You can then pursue the education or training you need to round out your practical knowledge.
Refine Your Learning
One saying that Dr. Carver repeated often was “Learn to do common things uncommonly well.” By learning to do something well the first time, you reduce errors and mistakes and reduce the need to redo a process or correct the mistakes in a product or service. This reduction in time spent on corrections increases your and your company’s efficiency and creates a much more efficient workplace.
Dr. Carver believed that growth is a continual process. If you stop learning and improving, you stop growing. By constantly honing your skills and your ability to recognize innovation in all its myriad forms and put that innovation to use, you can increase efficiency in the workplace.