Effectiveness vs. Efficiency, Or The Charlie Chaplin Dilemma

CNN recently ran an article on the perfectionist directorial tendencies of the great Charlie Chaplin. In what the article promotes as “new, behind-the-scenes footage” released on the remastered City Lights Blu-Ray, fans are able to catch a behind the scenes glimpse of a cinema master’s seemingly meticulous methodology.

“Chaplin rehearsed on film — he’d try out an idea and do it over and over again,” explained Mehran. “And since he was the director, he couldn’t see his performance so he had to record it.”

Chaplin’s work endures and was incredibly popular during his own time as well as ours. There’s no argument that his methods were highly effective. But they don’t really seem like most efficient way to actually go about doing things.

In the behind the scenes footage, for example, we learn that Chaplin had one of his actresses run through 342 takes, just to perfect a single scene.

342 is a lot of takes. It’s a lot of time and it’s definitely a lot of film. It seems like a lot of everything was expended in his process to arrive at the finished product.

Marketers commonly use processes and methodologies that, with enough time, money, and wherewithal, can lead to effective results, but which can hardly be called efficient. Efficiency happens when you take what is effective and make it less wasteful. When you figure out to get to effective results after only 200 takes. And then only 100. Efficiency relies on iteration.

It takes a willingness to move beyond someone or something that’s been proven effective; it’s an aspiration for something more than emulation and that status-quo.

The transition starts with one simple question, “How can we do this better?”

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