I get really excited by challenges to long-standing convention. Not just by the possible changes that might get triggered but by what the challenges often reveal about the conventions in the first place. For example, we take the 40-hour (or longer) workweek as almost sacrosanct. But look into its history and you discover how arbitrary it really is.
In Dominic Price's recent Work Life article, "It's time to stop measuring productivity," he exposes a slew of conventional ideas we have about productivity. The main one?
More productivity = good.
But is it, always?
As he says, "productivity is just a mathematical equation: output divided by time." Which means that productivity is fundamentally linked to output – not outcomes. When we talk about increasing productivity, we’re actually talking about increasing output.
This might apply to certain work, but what about knowledge work?
In that context, more output doesn’t necessarily mean better results. Dom says, "As best-selling author Dan Pink told me recently, he could write two mediocre books in the same time it takes to write one really good book. Two books is twice the output! Twice the productivity! Hallelujah! But his publisher would have some pretty choice words for him because mediocre books don’t sell."
See, even though Pink would've been twice as productive, the results wouldn't have been twice as good.
"And yet, as a society of knowledge workers, we are obsessed with productivity," says Dom. "We’ll click on any article with that word in the headline."
Here's a question: could you leave the "cult of productivity?" Could you (and your organization) move away from output and focus instead on outcomes? Could you make the switch from efficiency to effectiveness?
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