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The New Productivity

January 29th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Some fascinating research from MIT Sloan today; Understanding productivity in the Information Age. The project consisted of analysing data from emails on a single company’s network:

As part of a study of an executive recruiting firm conducted over a five-year period, the researchers were able to analyze ten months of the firm’s e-mail traffic. While the content of the recruiting firms’ e-mails was encrypted […] the research team could track the flow of particular encrypted words through the firm’s e-mail network. The researchers then correlated those findings with data […] about factors such as individual workers’ project workload, project completion time and compensation

All the results in the press release are interesting, but the one that I found most fascinating was:

Workers who received more novel information (as measured by an unusual word appearing in the company’s e-mail traffic and then diffusing through part of the firm’s e-mail network) had measurably higher productivity than others. In this study, encountering just 10 novel words more than the average worker was associated with $700 more in revenue generated per employee.

The whole study has an interesting view on mundanity; I don’t think I’ve read an article in the last year that speaks about email as much other than an irritant, and it’s fairly well ingrained as part of our everyday. The idea that these daily transactions of information contain abstract, important – and, better – identifiable data about how an individual and a company functions is actually quite exciting.

Possibly more importantly, though, is the concept of novel information as something that can be followed through conversations, and through the regular flow of information. From the data given, it looks like this information is as likely to be a new idea as a new project or project update. It would be even better to know how many of the novel ideas here ended up being successful, or if (as I’d expect) the act of having and communicating an idea in itself increased productivity.

Categories: management · network
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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Infovore » links for 2008-01-30 // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:22 am

    […] The New Productivity | A Better Course “I don’t think I’ve read an article in the last year that speaks about email as much other than an irritant.” This one, however, makes some very interesting claims. (tags: productivity office work mundanity email blog) […]

  • 2 SpeakerSue Says… » Word of the Day // Feb 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    […] is happy to sell you the entire report but first check out the blog, A Better Course for a good interpretation of their research. Whatever you do, start incorporating unusual words […]

  • 3 grockwel: Research Notes » Blog Archive » Productivity Illuminated by Email // Feb 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    […] found at bettercourse.org (via infovore) where more interesting comments may be […]