There’s always something thought-provoking on Sigurd Rinde’s blog. His latest post, the information age fallacy, looks at the amount of time wasted in managing information flows, instead of creating anything new. The problem with information technology, as Sig describes it, is that IT, “has mostly produced faster ways to do exactly the same we did two thousand years ago.”
“The figures are rather simple – knowledge work stands for about 60% of the world’s value creation while knowledge workers spend on average about 2/3rd of their time on managing the flows. If we could automate that management and spend that time on value creation instead – i.e. change “what” we do – we would look at approximately 120% GNI growth world wide.”
The amount of time at work wasted doing certain non-productive tasks can be up to 50%, according to some studies, and this does not even include time wasted in meetings.
Adapting to a networked economy and workplace takes time. This time has been overlooked in our race to get the next shiny piece of technology. Oscar Berg summed it up on Twitter recently and said that the main reason for our technology-centric approach to work is that we are hoping “for a silver bullet that will kill all our problems in one shot.” Obviously, the evidence shows that the next piece of technology will not solve our problems and may actually compound them.
Value is created by workers with creativity, curiosity, and empathy. Value creation in the 21st century is having ideas, connecting people and ideas, and trying new things out based on these ideas. Not only do these activities take time, they are highly social, as success often depends on who we work with. Spending time on merely managing data flows saps our energy and drive for doing creative work.
Maybe we need to look at productivity differently. Instead of asking, what have you done for the company this week, we should be asking what ideas you have had and what have you done to test them out? It might get us away from measuring and doing things that should be automated in the first place. Automation is not a bad thing if you know what to do with the extra time it provides, so let the droids do the boring stuff, and let’s focus on value creation.