Productivity – it’s a mind game

It’s budget day in the UK, and there’s a lot of chatter about productivity – or more accurately, the relative lack of it in the UK. I suspect that, as with many large organisations, including governments, they’re looking in the wrong place.

In the industrial economy mindset, productivity is measured mechanically – outputs – mainly framed in money as a function of inputs – again, mainly measured in money – capital, labour costs etc.The pursuit of it has also taken a mechanical, process path. Quality, Process, Lean, Six Sigma. All very valuable, but finite tools.

In a connection economy, the prime driver of productivity is bandwidth – measured as the efficiency and lack of friction in the creation of value. If creativity is the process of turning ideas into value, then the determinants are allowing and enabling people to think creatively, and connect those ideas to places – people, businesses, universities – wherever – where they can thrive.

Most businesses are structured to strangle creativity at birth. Goals (particularly SMART ones) create the focus and pressure that stops creativity in its tracks.

We do not have ideas for money – we have ideas. Everything we know about idea generation, from Dan Pink’s work DRIVE, and the more detailed PUNISHED BY REWARDS (Alfie Kohn) tells us that applying extrinsic rewards to intrinsic motivation kills it.

Great sports coaches don’t teach players to kick a ball, or play a shot – they are working with people who know how to do that. Great coaches work with people to understand their game.

In business, most of our Learning, Development and coaching is focused on behaviour – how to kick the ball, and that’s an industrial era approach.

The answer to the productivity paradox is right in front of us. Helping those we work with to understand their game. It’s about inputs. We know how to process the hell out of inputs, we ‘re just very poor at enabling them.

If we want to increase productivity, we need to do more work, and more getting out of the way, on enabling their generation.

Permission to Speak Sir?

There are interesting fault lines beginning to appear as we move from an industrialised economy to one founded on connections.

Businesses used to be able. to a very large degree to control the nature and flow of information, through marketing and PR, and because most people were connected only locally,

That no longer holds true. Everybody is connected. The business or organisation can longer mediate those connections – whatever frantic efforts lawyers make,

Listening to the slightly comical conversation on Radio 4 this morning regarding footballers having to clear their tweets through PR, it struck me just how much in denial many organisations are.

Our organisations are the people in them. As individuals, we are responsible for what we say and do,and the quality of organisations is a function of who they choose, and who chooses them.

Culture is different to marketing. It cannot be shaped, or controlled by budget. Jim Rohn said that we become the average of those we associate with.

That is now true of organisations. It makes a huge difference.

Provocations from Robin Dunbar

For those interested in how we relate in complex environments – here’s a full length ( 1 hour) video of Robin Dunbar. I think it has huge implications for how we organise ourselves in tomorrow’s markets.