Every company worries in some way about how to make people more productive. To do this, most companies normally focus on two things: training – building knowledge and skills, and technology. No doubt this does yield returns. However, there is something else, perhaps even more powerful, that is largely ignored.
Productivity is how much you produce or create within a given period of time. Therefore, it has an implicit rate component to it. This means how productive we are depends on how fast and how effectively we act. Our knowledge and skills certainly play into how effectively we act and technology can speed it all up. The other hidden component, however, is how fast and effectively information travels through an organisation every day. Information about who else is doing what, information on resources in the company and the larger ecosystem, information … Read More »
What we need are Masters in Enterprise Building (MEBs)
Ask MBA (Masters in Business Administration) students what they want to do after they graduate and the answer is usually a variant of ‘Get a good job’. A good job, they will explain to you, is a job with a good salary, good personal growth opportunities, good work environment and good facilities. Large multi-national corporations will top that list. At the recent IIM-A Confluence, Satish Pradhan, executive vice-president, Tata Group likened business school placements to the Pushkar Mela. wherecandidates, like camels, are dressed up, paraded and sold to the highest bidder. . A student countered that they were ‘trained’ to find jobs.
What’s wrong with that, you might ask. For a country, where less than 10 per cent is employed in the formal economy and where the college capacity extends to less than … Read More »
There is a certain romanticism that we all carry about rural living. For many of us it represents the simple life, a place where you go when you need to slow down and not do much. And it is precisely that. The world’s relentless march forward occurs in the cities. Almost three quarters of the world’s productive output, its GDP, comes from its cities. There are simple reasons for this. When we cluster closer together into large agglomerations it brings us close to resources and information. City living is more expensive because we are willing to pay more for the choice and opportunity that this results in. For the entrepreneur, it allows you to access the resources you need quickly and efficiently from legal to administrative to people and gives you rapid access to a larger market. For the job … Read More »
Many CEOs and HR folk will tell you that happy people make for more productive employees. In fact there are even studies that demonstrate that when you are happy you are more productive. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it is important for companies to make employees happy so that they will be productive. Some even go so far as to say employees first, customers second. An article in the recent issue of Outlook on happiness made me wonder if they haven’t got it all backwards.
The article reported on a survey of happiness among some 2000 people across India. In it they asked people questions about whether they were happy, what made them happy, and who they thought were the happiest people. What made people happiest was optimism about the future, followed by feeling fit and work success. Also, a sense of … Read More »
Some weeks ago I received a rather acerbic email from a reader lambasting me for my relentless focus on productivity. Life is not just about productivity, he said. It is about relationships. Have I thought about this? Maybe people don’t want to be working day in and day out in factories or offices. People derive happiness from relationships not money and being poor doesn’t mean being unhappy. Our country will suffer because of people like me who come with western ideas to spoil the fabric of our society. And as I have come to realize, this particular reader’s opinion is a fairly common one.
Last week I was going through the Kerala backwaters in a small boat with my kids and I almost could see his point. Life expectancy in Kerala is 78 compared to the 55-65 range in the rest … Read More »
When tackling any sort of problem, it matters immensely how you frame it. The construct and language you use to describe the problem will inevitably direct and guide how you formulate solutions. Let’s take a look at the economic topography of the world – there are places where a great deal of innovative products and services are created that many have access to and other places where much less is created and fewer people have access to the little there is. The medium of exchange for these goods and services being money, the issue of this global inequity among human beings has been constructed in the context of money. It has been framed as an issue of ‘poverty’, the lack of money and therefore the ability to acquire. With this framework lack of money becomes the central issue and we … Read More »
I’m betting heavily on the value of information. From everything I know in theory and intuitively, without timely access to information, not much can get done, and certainly very little can get done well. This is true for societal progress in general and for organizations. Without information there would be a lot of resources wasted reinventing the wheel and we would lose the benefit of access to the collective ideas around us. Still, this value seems sort of intangible. How do you put a number on it? Some folks in Boston from MIT and BU have tried to do just that.
In a study titled Productivity Effects of Information Diffusion in Networks Sinan Aral, , Erik Brynjolfsson and Marshall W. Van Alstyne asked the question:
Does better access to information predict an individual’s ability to complete projects or generate revenue?
They … Read More »