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Faster, Better, Longer- The Productivity Myth


Read an article about productivity that I agreed with totally. The article by the Harvard Business Review talks about “The Productivity Myth” which shows that productivity is not as hyped as you are led to believe.

The Fed Chairman Ben Bernanake was recently remarking on the remarkable gains in productivity by the American worker. And in the article, the author Tony Schwartz goes on to propose a reason for the gain- fear.

Fear of losing one’s job as the average American worker sees their colleagues, neighbours and relatives lose their jobs. So they push themselves so that they aren’t the next to go. More things get done, which may turn out to be superficial gains.

What if it comes at the expense of burning out the worker?

If you spend too much energy at short term targets, lose the chance for renewal and new ideas, longer term performance suffers.

In his article, he said that “Working more than 50 hours a week has been correlated in a raft of studies with less sleep, less physical activity, higher job dissatisfaction and ultimately worse performance.”

You need time to recharge, to refocus and to think about priorities. At one’s deathbed, one doesn’t regret not spending more time in office but will regret not spending more time with your family and doing things you like.

You can make 100 toothbrushes, but a thinker would have thought of the floss, the electric toothbrush, the mouth gargle, putting flouride and mint on toothpick etc.

Without the 20% time to do projects not related to their work, the Google engineers would not have come up with Google News, Google Reader and their cash cow of attaching targeted advertisements to search results. Neither would 3M have that innovative culture that lead to the now famous Post-It pad.

So as an investor, do look out for companies with very innovative practices that are enlightened and contribute to retention of their staff and low turnover.



1. The Productivity Myth- by Tony Schwartz for Harvard Business Review

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