Impact is Hot, Productivity is Not

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 10, 2019
Impact ripples

Let’s face it: ‘productivity’ is a boring word.

I’m also wondering if it is even the ‘right’ word today.

You mostly hear about it as ‘personal productivity’, which tends to be about time management. You might also see in government reports about ‘Productivity Trends’, where one thing, e.g. output, is divided by another ‘input’.  Or perhaps expressed as ‘Revenue per Employee’ in a corporate context.

There seems to be a declining interest in the word.

Isn’t this odd?

My experience in the Productivity Improvement business led me to believe that it is the central measure for increasing the wealth of the world.

So where am I wrong?

Here’s one observation. Productivity is output over input: something DIVIDED. 

What if we looked for an idea that expresses MULTIPLICATION?  We live in an abundant world, where things get better and better all the time (and they do – if you don’t believe it, take a look at some of Hans Rosling’s analysis of world data).  Things multiply, they do not have to be divided.  Shared, probably, but not divided.  If I invent software that works for the whole world, I can share it all, not carve it up into pieces..

So, how about ‘Impact’?

It’s not so much the efficiency with which you do something.  It’s more about the ripples that your actions have. For example, if you cook a meal for your family, it will immediately benefit them…and nobody else.  If you cook a meal, record the recipe and publish a book of recipes, then you will have impacted many more people.  Not just once, but over and over.  That task of cooking is the same, but its impact is different depending on what you do with it. You can even be inefficient at cooking, not very ‘productive’, but still create a larger impact.

So this is not about one complicated thing divided by another complicated thing.  It’s to do with how much our efforts are multiplied…not divided.

Feels much better to me. 

So what impact are you having?

James La Trobe-Bateman

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