Linked – Productivity is outdated. Here’s why.

Lior makes an accurate observation, we still measure productivity the same way we did when everyone worked in a factory, but very few of us work in a factory any longer. So, that might be a bad idea.

“In fact, the use of productivity this way is actually killing our creativity.

This is because creative work requires something called “unconscious processing” — a time when your brain gets to take a break from intense focus work and “wander.” By wander, I mean your brain is connecting new inputs with outputs, connecting different circuits in the brain to come up with new creative solutions.

This is the biological process that’s happening in those moments ideas hit you in the shower, on a walk or when doing simple tasks like folding laundry.”

This reminded me of a recent conversation I had about “work hours”. I work for an Advisory department that is measured, naturally, by hours spent on any specific project. It’s similar to a law firm where you “bill” hours but slightly different. As someone responsible for learning and development on that team, I pretty consistently lose time in that I don’t track all of the hours I spend on any given project because there are a lot of hours where I might be thinking about work outside of the time spent sitting in my home office.

For example, if I’m sitting in the living room watching Netflix with my wife and browsing my RSS feeds, I might come across something interesting about skills-based learning and spend some time thinking about how that would fit with our strategy for 2023. I might even save the article with a few notes to refer to later.

Is that work or not work? Is that productivity or not? Is it billable time toward a 2023 strategy project or not? Would your answer to those questions change if I did the same exact thing, but at 2 PM while in my home office with the TV going? Why?

I don’t think these are simple answers. I enjoy that remote work lets me do both of those things. Yes, there’s a blurring of the lines between work and home time, but I can use that to my advantage too. (I might also browse RSS during the work day and find something for the blog that isn’t working. It evens out pretty well when you’re aware of it.)

When you have that blurring, though, the idea that you can measure productivity the same way as you did when we spent 8 hours building a widget seems a little overly simplistic, doesn’t it?

The challenge is finding the thing we can measure to evaluate whether people are accomplishing the goals we set for them, but those goals can’t be the “number of things or hours” when the work is so much more than that.

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