Last weekend I was still buzzing by an answer I gave a colleague on the question “What did you learn last four years?” The first part of my answer was that I have sincere questions whether IT can boost knowledge worker productivity. Having worked in IT for more than 10 years and still am, this answer had more impact on me than I thought.
A book I was reading actually helped me see some light and perspective on my own answer. This book was PresentationZen, for me this book is about how to tell your story. Based upon ancient but actual Zen-wisdom Garr Reynolds makes the case for a better way to tell you story. His most important lessons for me are about Wabi Sabi (which means a much as “beauty in imperfection and simplicity”), “empty your cup so it may be filled” this means that you have to clear your mind to have new ideas and “we cannot see our reflection in running water, it is only in still water that we can see” meaning that in our high pressure economy you need to slow down and take some distance to reflect, learn and set priorities.
My main concern on productivity is based on my own experience with energy levels. No matter what technology supports my work, if I sleep less than 7 hours my productivity gets worse! If I am out of shape I lose concentration faster. Uncertainty on goals, constant interruption, the illusion of multitasking, big events in my personal life: all have more impact on my productivity than technology. The ideas of Tony Schwartz and the energy project reflect these findings.
Technology has impact on productivity that is without question but (ceteris paribus) far less impact than (again ceteris paribus) energy levels or applying the same zen wisdom to work as to presentations. The lessons from Garr Reynolds and Tony Schwartz may proof to have more impact on knowledge worker productivity than the ideas of Sergey Brin and Steve Jobs….
PS Thanks Adam Bowie for this nice image!