Category Archives: Workplace Productivity

Are We Becoming Commodities?

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Do you know your Klout score? Do you care?

Klout measures the extent of influence and power one has in today’s networked world. “Discover and be recognized for how you influence the world,” is their web-site’s tag-line. Some months ago a respected professional colleague offered to help me increase my Klout score. His well-meaning attention aggravated me, though I could not fully explain why. I was tempted to sign onto the Klout site and begin tracking how much clout I have in the world of social networking. But I demurred.

About the same time I had the privilege to hear Carlo Strenger give a keynote address at an American Psychological Association Conference . Strenger, a psychologist, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and author, referenced extensively his book entitled,“The Fear of Insignificance”. I subsequently read the book over the summer. And I re-read it, marking it profusely with underlining and notes to myself. It is the most important book I have read in the last five years (or longer). Here’s why: Strenger astutely addresses the “commoditization of human beings” in today’s signed on, logged in, tagged, “liked,” rated and ranked, virtual marketplace.

One definition of “commodity,” according to Webster, is “a massed produced un-specialized product.” Strenger argues that in an era of mass globalization we are victims of two primary models of success – “celebrity – a quantification of how well you are known – and financial success.” He invites individuals to a more reflective, integral expression of self which may not be a function of mass-appeal or social ranking at all.

“How did we succumb to the belief that the person with the most hits is the most valuable?”

“The infotainment system has made us forget that the true drama of human life is the process through which we become individuals with character, voice, and a worldview. The point is to live lives that are our own creation rather than adapting to the demands of the world marketplace,” to quote Strenger. How did we succumb to the belief that the person with the most “hits” is the most valuable anyway?

Toward the end of my last posting on this blog six months ago, I commented: “As I write, I am becoming more familiar with myself and the power at play in my life, past and present.” I continue to write but with greater awareness, including the power of attraction and distraction of the internet (all the more prevalent in my life since my recent acquisition of an iPad).

In the past six months I have become more aware that:(1) I know and express myself more fully and completely when not worrying about how I will “tweet” a link; (2) I listen to myself more effectively – mind and body, heart and soul – when not distracted by SEO (search-engine-optimization) considerations; (3) I like to be “liked” but that very phenomenon limits my speaking the truth as I discover it and come to know it.

Whatever clout I have it is because I have found ways to be myself in a world which endlessly conspires to help us be “successful.”

Don’t let desire for approval compromise being true to yourself!

Beyond Compliance to Commitment

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More than half of U.S. employees are not engaged at work, according to a newly released Mercer Survey. Key measures for engagement as reported in the survey are “loyalty, commitment, and motivation.”

The challenge of gaining employee commitment is not going away. I wrote about this over a year ago, “Gaining Employee Commitment in Tough Times: Performance and Potential in R&D Today.” As the recession continues, it is easy enough to be compliant, if not complacent. That is the safe thing to do.

In the long run, compliance without commitment is taking its toll.

Employees will do whatever is required to hold onto their jobs, including just keeping their heads down and working harder. In the short run, for the time being, that may appear to be a satisfactory way to “engage” with the work at hand. In the long run, compliance without commitment is taking its toll. The Mercer Survey verifies this.

Employee commitment is not a sufficient condition for innovation to flourish but it is a necessary one. Those who wish to be market leaders as the economy revives dare not ignore what is required to move beyond compliance to commitment.

Good leaders explore and discuss with others what really matters to them and help them to re-ignite their passion. Without such interest on the part of those we respect or maybe even admire, the drive to exceed one’s own limits is lost; innovation becomes little more than a company slogan.

We need more leaders now who understand what’s required to gain commitment beyond compliance.

Pace + Perseverance = Performance (not!)

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The inadequacy of this equation is self evident when written on the page. But in the workplace today the speed with which one is moving combined with the effort to keep in motion, regardless of what purpose or passion may be fueling the effort, equates to performance.

Call centers handle a higher volume of customer inquiries than ever, but navigating the automated menus as a frustrated consumer is a shear waste of time. A Google search generates required information faster than ever, but time to think and reflect is scarce. A respected leader whom I “follow” is on “retreat”; I receive hourly tweets which update anyone who will follow his attempt to take a “time out”.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Some new performance equations are urgently needed!

The Necessity of Accepting “Stuckness”

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Yesterday I had a very frustrating day – not one which is totally foreign to my experience but with a slightly new and different twist. After enjoying three days of a long holiday weekend, I had set aside most of the day to create/compose/write my presentation for the American Astronautical Society which I am delivering in a couple days at their Imagine 2009 Conference. The day was virtually “wasted”.

Despite my good intentions and a plethora of ideas and angles and insights, I accomplished very little, until…

Early evening I posted the following comment on my Face Book page: “Some days it just seems impossible to be as productive as I know I am capable of being – why do I get “stuck” like this?”

Literally within minutes I had the following responses from several trusted friends and colleagues, including my daughter.

“Sometimes you just have to allow yourself a break. That can be a very good thing. “

“If I knew, my friend, I would share the answer, gladly.”

“It’s called creative incubation. we all need it. 🙂 “

“Productive and ‘creative’ are different things. Perhaps by being productive you mean ‘efficient’. For being effective in what you do, if you are a creative person, you need periods like that. The worst you can do then is to try very hard.”

All of the above comments make sense to me intellectually. They were/are appreciated. But there is nothing that tries my patience more than believing that I SHOULD be able to produce right now, even though I am not. I become very self-critical and undermine my best intentions even more.

When it comes to pacing productivity, sometimes the most significant thing we can do or say is simply to acknowledge, “I’m stuck”. When I did that yesterday, everything changed within a very short span of time. I found myself in a new kind of “flow state” within minutes, though I did little or nothing different, other than state to my virtual friends what was obvious to me by the end of the day.

Sometimes THE most productive thing we can do is ease up on ourselves. I wonder how much creativity and innovation is lost because we fail to realize this in a timely way??