Productive, or just pseudo-productive

Antony Mayfield suggests tools and networks can be used to loosen clogged bureaucracies and ways of working. But if we don’t think about how they are being used don’t challenge unproductive and corrosive ways of working they will establish new workplace tyrannies and inefficiencies.

He looks at various bits of evidence that always-on networks can lure us into very unproductive behaviour. He refers to this article by McKinsey (free registration required) which says that information overload makes us less creative and more anxious. What’s more it’s addictive.

As usual, McKinsey are very C Suite orientated but as Antony says, this stuff applies to all kinds of knowledge worker. This little bit particularly stuck out for me:

Teresa Amabile and her colleagues at the Harvard Business School evaluated the daily work patterns of more than 9,000 individuals working on projects that required creativity and innovation. They found that the likelihood of creative thinking is higher when people focus on one activity for a significant part of the day and collaborate with just one other person. Conversely, when people have highly fragmented days—with many activities, meetings, and discussions in groups—their creative thinking decreases significantly.

This in turn reminds me of some work done by Keith Sawyer which suggests we easily confuse stimulation with creativity – people thought they were more creative on stressful days and less creative on apparently quiet ones. The reverse turned out to be the case.

2 thoughts on “Productive, or just pseudo-productive

  1. Dwight Towers

    Liked it – and the last point, on mistaking the froth for the substance, is key. Because most of us are so oblivious to real creativity (and it’s hard for Hollywood films to portray it – no real visuals) – we accept the visual proxy – frenetic running around and hi-jinks – as ‘creativity’… perhaps?


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