Productivity paradox & the four horsemen
Productivity is the holy grail of human enterprise. Over the centuries, from the time man discovered the wheel, we are constantly pursuing how to improve our lot through improvement by doing more of what we do in less time and with less effort. In modern times, especially in the past few decades, the promise of technology, initially analog and lately digital, have improved productivity across the global board significantly. But data shows that productivity has been enhanced at a low 1%per year in the last 30 years!
Innovation using technology is rising every day. Technology is now truly here to automate, make decisions, cure sickness, and take us to the stars. But for the productivity of an enterprise to improve, we have some distance to cover. It requires skilling or reskilling of the workforce and the redesign of work to adapt to best utilize the benefit offered by the technology. There are two elements to this - one, the speed of innovation driven by technology, and two, the speed of transformation of the human who must adopt new designs of work and skills. The rate of innovation has been amazingly high in recent years, but the speed of human transformation has not picked up. Therefore, the secret lever to enhancing productivity is to accelerate human change.
This begs the question - When technology created by human drives innovation at such a breakneck pace, why is our own pace of change slow? We can find answers in neuroscience. While innovation is a problem solved by the mind, transformation (or lack of) is a problem of the mind. Change of any kind requires a difference in behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs. This is hard for most adult minds. Let me explain why.
Our mind is perpetually busy thinking and gets involved in thoughts. Just as the four horsemen of of the apocalypse, there are four horsemen of the mind: four elements that affect our thoughts and thus our behaviors. Thoughts trigger emotions such as fear, joy, and anger; emotion is the first of the horsemen. Views are shaped by beliefs formed by past thoughts and experiences, especially those limiting ones form the second of the horsemen. Thoughts build upon unverified assertions or assumptions - the assumption is the third horseman. Last, thoughts are triggered by illogical beliefs of a cognitive nature. Bias is the last of the four horsemen. I call these four horsemen the mind's FLAB (Fears, Limiting beliefs, Assumptions, and Biases).
What does all this have to do with productivity? The mind's FLAB significantly slows humans from adapting to innovation or to a new design of work. The resulting lag in transformation limits any enterprise or industry at large from being able to reap the rewards of higher productivity even after several years of innovation being accessible.
How can we overcome this lag in transformation? The four horsemen of the mind must be understood and engaged with to master the art of transformation. This takes deliberate effort on the part of people leading the transformation. These change leaders can take help from human performance experts who specialize in change, to understand the four horsemen of the mind and how to engage them, for themselves as well as for the organization they lead.
I will write another day about the horse whisperers!