There is an increasing popularity for "work smarter, not harder" mantra. In last week itself, I have seen few people discussing this on LinkedIn (which is what prompted this post) - with a common thread of discussion: not only smart work can replace hard work, but also that this is the need of the hour.
There could have been a time (or a generation) when the common belief was to work hard - that's it! However, that belief has changed, drastically at that. Hard work on its own might not be enough - there is a strong need for smart work as well. My objection is with the promotion of idea that smart work can replace hard work (as the cartoon's message suggests).
Without hard work, without relentless practice, can any sportsperson become a pro - let alone become a champion? Another mantra comes to mind: practice makes perfect. I will concede that hard work alone may not lead to success, but it is still not replaceable by smart work.
In business terms, a fresher needs to put in the hard work to learn the ropes. Hard work ensures the fresher experiences and understands many aspects of the task, which then can lead her to plan out a smarter way of completing the task. If she is taught the "smart way" of doing things from the beginning, essentially she is not learning the process (the why of it), rather learning short-cuts. The short-cuts that are due to someone else's hard work, leading to short-term efficiency.
For an experienced executive, she becomes a fresher every time she takes on a new role - a promotion, change of company, change of location, change of industry (or a combination of these). The smart work that helped her in her previous role may / may not be enough to deliver desired results in her new role...she needs to fall back on hard work, even if for a little while.
In my experience, life is rarely either black (hard work) or white (smart work). Life is usually a shade of grey. At times more of black is required, and at some other times more of white is required - but as a rule no one should believe one is superior to the other. Each has its own importance, need and appropriate time to use.
My mantra: work hard...and smart!