If You're Measuring Productivity In Hours, You're Doing It Wrong

from the output,-output,-output dept

Usually we don’t see these types of stories until March Madness time, but the NY Times is writing about how much productivity is “lost” due to trying to keep up with the “data stream.” Apparently research firm Basex has come out with a gimmicky calculator to determine how much productivity is likely lost, and put out a silly, borderline ridiculous press release noting that Intel claims it worked with the research firm to determine that the impact on productivity because of information overload was “up to eight hours a week.” Seriously? Productivity is measured not in hours, but output. If productivity were just about hours, we’d be looking for ways to get people to work more hours. But, most people recognize that there are diminishing returns to making people work too much — and they have time off to charge their batteries.

If you’re going to measure productivity this way, we could just as easily say that we’re putting out a study showing that sleeping costs a company approximately eight hours a day in lost worker productivity! Something must be done! While I have no doubt that information overload can be a cost to productivity, it’s not going to be measured in hours. If I “waste” 20 hours a week dealing with information overload, but I’m able to extract information that makes me three times as productive, the rest of the week, then that’s a good trade-off. Do people actually pay companies for this sort of research?

Filed Under:
Companies: basex, intel

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Comments on “If You're Measuring Productivity In Hours, You're Doing It Wrong”

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9 Comments
Edward Heath says:

Information Overload

I am involved already in my company’s review of information overload. It is a serious problem as far as we are concerned and probably costs us millions of dollars a year.

I agree that productivity is not measured in hours. However, you are overlooking what information overload is. You equate “waste” with work – and that’s not the same thing. I went to the site, used the calculator, and read the report from the research firm. That’s not what they are saying at all. Information overload is a serious impediment on productivity – but you need to compare apples to apples and that’s why it’s important to have an ongoing dialogue about the problem.

mike42 (profile) says:

Old information

This was a terrible bit of “research.” 28 pages of padding and 2 pages to say, “context switching is bad. Don’t do it.” Yes, we already know multi-tasking doesn’t really work. And pick up any book on software development, and one of the primary subjects is, “Don’t distract your workers.” Microsoft even went so far as to give each coder their own office!
And since when is this “information overload”? Information overload is more information than you can process, and has nothing to do with distractions. This is context-switching, plain and simple. Oh, darn, is context-switching not a buzzword?

“Ground breaking research.” Yeah.

Curtis Cooley (user link) says:

No Definition

What a giant press release about nothing. They don’t even define what information overload really is or how it costs so much money. I ran the stupid calculator and it asks questions about company makeup not about what the people actually do.

Sounds like a chicken little entrepreneur: The sky is falling, so pay our consultants a gazillion dollars and we’ll build you a roof.

Max Worth says:

Everyone here suffering from too much info?

I’m reading the comments rolling with laughter. Curtis says there’s no definition. We don’t know what IO is? Mike says the report has lots of padding – I read it too and while I could probably condense it into 1/2 the number of pages, I found it very helpful.

If you are an executive who, such as myself, suspects that info overload is indeed slowing things down, then tools such as the calculator are actually helpful. I showed the results to my manager (divisional VP), and he immediately asked what we can do to lower our exposure.

The calculator isn’t the end all and be all – I suspect if they asked too many questions, no one would even try it – but it gave us a range that lined up with figures I already had calculated. Again, useful in building a case for taking steps to fight info overload.

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