OPPORTUNITIES BEFORE EFFICIENCIES

Where humans are most actively engaged…

…with their imaginations, we don’t see productivity gains–and why would we? Is a Hollywood movie company that produces longer movies per dollar more productive than one that produces shorter movies? Yet an increasingly greater percentage of work takes place in the information, entertainment, and communication industries where the “volume” of output is somewhat meaningless.

The problem with trying to measure productivity is that it measures only how well people can do the wrong jobs. Any job that can be measured for productivity probably should be eliminated from the list of jobs that people do.

The task for each worker in the industrial age was to discover how to do his job better: that’s productivity. Frederick Taylor revolutionized industry by using his scientific method to optimize mechanical work. But in the network economy, where machines do most of the inhumane work of manufacturing, the question for each worker is not “How do I do this job right?” but “What is the right job to do?”

Answering this question is, of course, extremely hard to do. It’s called an executive function. In the past, only the top 10% of the workforce was expected to make such decisions. Now, everyone, not just executives, must decide what is the right next thing to do.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK