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Civilisation, productivity, and choice  

Here are a couple of very insightful posts from the prolific Seth Godin...

The first, about Civilization:

Given the opportunity, people almost always move from a place that's less civilized to one that's more civilized. Given the resources, we invest them creating an environment where we can be around people and events that we admire and enjoy. We move to places and cultures where we are trusted and where we are expected to do our share in return.

And yet...

There are always shortcuts available. Sometimes it seems like we should spend less money taking care of others, less time producing beauty, less effort doing the right thing--so we can have more stuff. Sometimes we're encouraged that every man should look out for himself, and that selfishness is at the heart of a productive culture. In the short run, it's tempting indeed to trade in a part of civilized humanity to get a little more for ourselves at the end of the day. And it doesn't work.

The second, about redefining productivity:

Machines can be more productive than people because once they're set up, they create more output per dollar spent. Lowering labor costs is the goal of the competitive industrialist, because in the short run, cutting wages increases productivity.

This is a race to the bottom, with the goal of cutting costs as low as possible as your competitors work to do the same.

The new high productivity calculation, though, is very different:

Decide what you're going to do next, and then do it. Make good decisions about what's next and you thrive.

First, apologies to Seth for quoting most of his posts here (not really in the spirit of quoting and linking), but I blame him: Seth has gotten into the habit of being so incredibly concise and succinct that most of his best posts are basically condensed down to the most important point and nothing else. That makes it very hard to quote just a bit.

Secondly, this is somewhat related to my recent article about doing more by doing less.

Being more effective in choosing what to do is what defines great productivity, not doing the same thing faster, because most of what we do is a waste. This concept is also at the core of the Lean Startup methodology, which aims to eliminate waste by eliminating things that have no value. It is at the core of good strategy, which is about applying limited resources in a way that maximises their impact, and saying no to ways that dilute their impact. It is at the core of most philosophies of improvement, because there is a fundamental truth at work here.

So here's a question to conclude this: who chooses what you do?

Do you make those choices and do you take responsibility for them?

More from the library:
How to talk about the competition
Start something small
Product vs Business vs Company