29 May 2019

Just How Productive Are We? Expert Jugglers or Amateur Plate Spinners?

Just How Productive Are We? Expert Jugglers or Amateur Plate Spinners?


Where ever we go people seem really busy. Sometimes laser beam focused and sometimes on the verge of being overwhelmed. There is no argument that there is a lot of change and activity about in New Zealand organisations. The more debatable point is how we human beings are handling it and how productive we actually are. In the following article we cast a neuroscience perspective on productivity in today’s organisations.

This is a short extract and link to our Employment Today article that was on Productivity.

In the 1950’s Management Guru Peter Drucker coined the term knowledge worker to distinguish from manual worker. Thomas Davenport, who has studied knowledge workers for more than a decade, offers a commonly used definition of the term:

“Knowledge workers have high degrees of expertise, education, or experience, and the primary purpose of their jobs involves the creation, distribution or application of knowledge.”

Knowledge work can be differentiated from other forms of work by its emphasis on “non-routine” problem solving that requires a combination of divergent, and creative thinking. The point here is that how do you define productivity (or productive output) when the work is more complex and ambiguous. What makes the difference from a really productive day and just a busy day?

It seems to us that we have a confused paradigm in organisations confusing activity and productivity. It’s not too long a bow to look at knowledge worker productivity a little differently and reclassify it as productive thinking or thinking that adds value and makes a difference.

This puts our brains and how we use them right at the heart of the productivity discussion.

So how are we using our brains at work?

Well let’s say there are a few challenges.