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Create your Kipuka

Create your Kipuka

Kilauea is an active volcano on the Big Island of Hawai‘i where I live; she has been erupting and sending rivers of molten lava to the sea continually since 1983. (I say “she” for in Hawaii legend attributes our volcanic eruptions to the goddess Pele.)

In the earlier years of her eruption, Kilauea did quite a bit of damage to homes, forests and wildlife. However now, something wonderful is happening. Something bountiful. Kilauea has stopped taking, and started to give back.

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Since claiming her fiery path to the sea, and as her lava continues to flow, Kilauea has begun to give us the gift of creation Her eruption shows no sign of stopping, and I suspect it will be many years beyond our lifetime before the vast landscape of glistening black rock left in the lava’s wake becomes hospitable and inhabitable again. However meanwhile, we bear witness to the very birth of the land itself. The land mass of our island has grown substantially in these past twenty three years.

As the lava flows to our ocean it chooses a certain path; it does not cover everything as a heavy rainfall might sheet a window. Within the areas of destruction burned and scarred by the slowly advancing lava there are these pockets of land which are spared. The trees and wild grasses continue to grow there, and while some other plants may succumb to the surrounding heat, because the ground itself was untouched the soil remains fertile, and new growth will begin fairly quickly. Birds find refuge in the trees of these older land pockets, and it is their song which you first hear. Upon closer inspection, you discover these spared sections of land are teeming with life.

We call these oases of vegetation kipuka. They beckon all life to return to their nourishment so that life can thrive again. They are places of hope and of promise; of survival. They are tranquil places of calm and serenity. They are places of preserved histories which hold the seeds for renewed beginnings.

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Some will swear that when you sit quietly within a kipuka and look to the skies, you will see images in cloud formations you have never seen before, for the land was spared to connect all on earth to the heavens. It is true that the kipuka get the most rainfall, for they attract our tropical rain clouds like magnets pulled into their verdant green targets.

Many island watermen use the word kipuka as well. They refer to a calm place in high seas where rolling swells seem to part for their canoe, or deep places in a shoal where they can find the prized pāpio playing when they are fishing.

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Within our lives, we all have kipuka. They are our havens and safe harbors. They are those places where we feel we are our best, where we have the most energy, and where we can be our most resilient selves. They are those places where we feel creative, and we seem to get our best ideas. Within our kipuka we feel a kind of abundance, knowing there are so many new possibilities just waiting to emerge.

Every workplace, and every home should be a kipuka, a place conducive to having the very best in us take root in fertile soil, so it will continue to grow and flourish. However in our case, nature may not provide them for us as she does in the lava fields of The Big Island. We have to create them.

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Imagining your best possible kipuka, and committing to creating it, could well be the most important thing you ever do for yourself. A place where you enjoy learning and growing. A place where it seems you always get your best ideas. A place where you give birth to who you are meant to be.

Better yet, you can be the kipuka. You can be the one who provides the nourishment others need to they can prosper and thrive. It’s a good goal to write for ourselves, don’t you think?

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. Rosa is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. She also writes online at the Talking Story blog.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Literal Life Hack: Cut your window of time in half.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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