Increasing Productivity is a Load of Bullshit

Today’s technology sale pitches are littered with the ability to “increase productivity”. Ask any employee if the latest tool they’ve implemented is increasing their productivity and they’ll probably roll their eyes. The answer you will most likely get is “My boss just makes me work more hours”. Working more hours is the modern MBA’s answer to increasing productivity. Let’s squeeze as much output from the human as physically possible, and if that’s not enough, let’s make them work more!

Pardon my french, but this is bullshit. You can ask people to work more than 40 hours but at what cost? And this is not increasing productivity (remember – productivity is about efficiency) it’s simply letting the machine to run longer than normal. You now have a bigger problem – who’s gonna pay for the gas?

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that working more than 40 hours a week does more harm than good. So why do organizations continue to be successful by working more than 40 hours? The reality is, we are simply not doing 40 full hours of work in a given week. So, maybe we’re at work for 80 hours, but are we really doing 80 hours of true work?

Instead of increasing productivity, let’s look at the problem from another angle – what can we do to prevent productivity from decreasing. I would argue the following are areas are major areas of decreased productivity: (note, these are just a few examples, I would argue there are even way more)

  • Link Bait – Articles with catchy titles, but no relevance to the purpose of the article, severely detriment our ability
  • Politics – Enough said.
  • User Experience – Is your productivity app on par with the experience with that of Angry Birds or Facebook? In other words, can the person complete their task in a well defined, straight forward and easy way?
  • Internet Connectivity – It’s 2012 and we still have issues with Wireless, 3G, and even wired connection. I wonder how much time is lost simply because you can’t get connected to the internet. When are we (as an individual) going to be “99.9% uptime” connected?
Our attention spans are limited but getting higher in value. As Seth Godin rightfully points out:
Attention is a bit like real estate, in that they’re not making any more of it. Unlike real estate, though, it keeps going up in value.

So what’s the answer to the productivity problem? Your technology needs to value your end-users attention. Create an experience that is far better than anything else out there and you’ll get their attention…and their productivity. They’ll work less, produce more, and everyone will be happier.