dvorak on productivity

Sometimes I love John Dvorak. Other times, not so much. Recently, he has railed on about “lost productivity” and how, basically, its BS – at least when used within the context of sales pitches. To wit:

This is the modern version of a snake-oil cure. Close relatives include the “lost productivity” indexes as well as “sales lost to piracy.” If sales were indeed lost to piracy, then why hasn’t this become a line item on the books and therefore tax deductible? Seriously, if all this intellectual property theft is theft in any conceivable way, then take the IRS deduction based on the press announcements and see how far you get.

Ah, John, John, John. Mistake number one, unless of course I’m misreading. The reason why its not taxable is because the sales were never made. Hence, nothing to deduct. This is not the case of someone taking something that you already have, but rather someone depriving you of sales because they have wrongly taken your IP. How could you seriously allude that IP theft isn’t theft in any conceivable way? Perhaps if someone ripped off all of your columns and diverted traffic from the sites that pay you to ones that don’t, you might start to reconsider that statement.

Then there’s this argument:

My grumblings date back to the early days of the Xerox machine. One rationale for selling the expensive photocopier was a bogus calculation about how much productivity was lost by secretaries who had to grab extra paper and put carbon paper between the pages to make copies. There were real numbers and costs attached to this practice, and the company could show that the Xerox machine would pay for itself by eliminating this productivity drain. And I suppose this number would be accurate and true if the secretary had actually been working 8 nonstop hours rather than chatting and doing her nails half the time. No matter what the experts like to think, the office environment is not like the assembly line, where you can make genuine tweaks to productivity.

Gotta say I must disagree. Carbon paper being no less productive than photocopiers? If the premise is correct, then presumably it would continue to apply to today’s photocopiers, would it not? Is he truly asserting that using carbon paper would be as efficient (and therefore as productive) as high-speed photocopiers that would allow an office to generate 100 copies of a document in an hour or two for its clients? Could there not be a bit of productivity gained by using photocopiers instead of carbon paper? What about computers? Surely he’s not suggesting that, for example, banking was no less productive in the days of manual ledgers?

Don’t get me wrong – I am still probably one of Mr. Dvorak’s biggest fans. But sometimes, very rarely, from time to time, I read one of his columns, like this one, and I scratch my head and wonder…

enterprise 2.0

One of the very interesting events that will be part of Toronto Tech Week is Enterprise 2.0. In the words of Thomas Purves, one of the organizers of the event:

The plan is to bring together the worlds of the leading minds from the technology and consulting side of Enterprise2.0 with business leaders (CxO’s, executives and IT/HR professionals) to bring a practical and real-world perspective to these ideas.

Sounds very interesting indeed. From what I can see in Wikipedia, the term Enterprise 2.0 was coined by someone from Harvard Business School and refers to the use of social networking stuff in the enterprise – i.e. Web 2.0 as applied to business – just to be clear, not as a business, but applied to business.

I was chatting with Mark Kuznicki who mentioned a great example of this described in Wikinomics – Goldcorp and how it took social networking and open-source type tactics to develop a very interesting approach (and very rewarding and profitable solution) to difficulties it had faced. I can’t do the topic justice here – check out the book or have a chat with Mark – its quite an interesting tale.

Similarly compelling tales can be found in a recent article in Wired on crowdsourcing, which I found very, very compelling. Take a look at Eli Lilly’s InnoCentive program or Marketocracy, both of which are mentioned in the Wired article – pretty tough to argue with the results.

So, if you’re a business person, this event would be well worth your time. So go. Then please try to convince the powers that be at my firm to adopt some of this stuff!

Just noted one quote from Wired that I thought captured one of the principles quite nicely:

4. The crowd produces mostly crap

Networks like InnoCentive, Mechanical Turk, and iStockphoto don’t increase the amount of talent – they make it possible to find and leverage that talent. Any open call for submissions – whether for scientific solutions, new product designs, or funny home videos – will elicit mostly junk. Smart companies install cheap, effective filters to separate the wheat from the chaff.