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The failed time:productivity ratio

30 June, 2010

If a mail sorted turned up to work only 3 days a week they’d get roughly 40% less mail sorted. If a security guard turned up to work two hours late then the physical security of the premises would be negatively impacted for those two hours.

However this straightforward ratio of time does not apply to all occupations and certainly not design.

I could have a flash of inspiration in the shower which might be my only contribution to my work for that day that could have a great effective impact than a week of busywork: dead-end work that someone thinks is important but will probably just result in an unread report in a desk drawer.

Yet that millisecond flash of inspiration will be seen from the traditional organisation perspective as far less valuable than a day full of busywork. Thus as a designer I often find my really productive and really short bursts of activity needlessly padded out with other work where I’m contributing no more than if I just put my feet up on the desk and had a nap.

I often say there aren’t enough hours in the day but the truth is there are enough hours in the day – but under this old Industrial Age process worker view of employment my 17 hours of available time every day is not spread evenly across effective work but stretched and squashed into blocks of high-intensity highly-effective work dotted across a backdrop of thumb-twiddling or unsatisfying busywork.

As I blogged recently, remunerating based on performance is a tricky issue but we can’t continue like this. I can’t continue like this. It’s silly that a momentary flash of inspiration that results in massive business efficiencies earns me less than one cent and it’s criminal that the very next day in the same job I can be paid hundreds of dollars for doing essentially nothing.

There’s nothing fair about this “fair” system of value recognition. However in the big scheme of things it kinda works out because I get offered more interesting jobs and have to invest less effort in finding work because my value is recognised – so not all is lost.

But I do think we need to be more creative about how we attract, engage, task and retain non-process creative talent. I know there is a solution.

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One comment

  1. […] and innovate. It's up to you to design your work environment.I ranted the other night about the failed time:productivity ratio and how employers fail to identify and recognise the value that creative employees bring to the […]



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