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Raise your People: Raise your Capital

Raise your People: Raise your Capital

The strive for profit can become a constant pressure in business. If you’re in a position of management or leadership, you’re probably familiar with the ever present need to push for growth.

What strategies actually work to not just boost sales and increase profits, but to raise the value of a business, to raise the capital?

Of course, you need to be attuned to the market place and ensure that what you’re selling, people want to buy. But this kind of thinking can also turn into a treadmill of external focus. Lose sight of what’s happening inside your organization, and you lose a golden opportunity to raise capital “from the inside out.”

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Managers and business owners have an innate sense of this. But there can sometimes be a problem with the language. There are conversations happening in board rooms and leadership meetings that circle around this sentence: How do we get our people to step up?

It implies that people are unmotivated or lacking in some way. And perhaps, in some cases, this is true. But more often than not, you’ll find organizations full of talented, hard working people who want to stretch themselves but aren’t given the right opportunities or tools.

But we provide a whole of PD for our staff—they’re always off doing some course or another!

That’s great. Training courses, coaching programs, external workshops, internal team building exercises—these all provide an experience of learning for staff. They might learn how to spot an opportunity or take the next step on their career ladder.

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But this kind of one-off learning usually produces one-off or limited results.

For far reaching results, that start to actually shift the culture of your organization, you may need to implement fundamental changes to learning. The key is you have to teach people how to think differently and think creatively.

This can be a huge challenge for some workers who have always played a passive role and been taught (implicitly or explicitly) to obey orders, wait for instructions and toe the line.

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Instilling a creative leadership mindset in your staff will give your organization a powerful edge. There are two very successful ways you can approach this kind of shift:

1. Implement an Emerging Leaders Program.

I’ve found this brings extraordinary results. Tap the people in your organization who show high potential talent and provide them with the chance to learn in a new way. The Emerging Leaders Program I’ve developed uses a combination of master class training sessions, 1:1 coaching and peer to peer guided facilitation supported by more experience leaders in the business.

This environment of collective energy and shared knowledge gives participants unique insights and can accelerate creativity and innovation. I recently ran an 8 month program with a company called Ridley Agriproducts. The aim was for each Emerging Leader to create a new offer or enhance an existing offering to their customers and stakeholders. The return of these individual commercial projects was reviewed and showed substantial results. As impressive as the commercial success was, just as important was the very clear increase in autonomy each participant gained.

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2. Do some intensive focus work with your Leadership Team

Great leaders lead by example. It’s crucial that you boost the skills and confidence of your leadership team on a regular basis. I worked recently with a large manufacturing company in Australia. We focussed specifically on developing their senior leaders to connect and engage with members and stakeholders in a more authentic way.

The commercial goal was to convert customers to clients. The great success of this initiative was a group led shift in language that named the outcome as: “casual customer to contented clients.”

Lifting the capability of your team—at management level and throughout the organization—is one of the most important and successful ways to raise capital. Once they truly understand and are enabled and empowered to stretch their own minds, the way they think, they will strive for ever increasing potential. This ultimately leads to raising financial capital. And the flow on is ongoing as people see and reap the rewards of learning to be more innovative.

Featured photo credit: structuredbusinessfinance via structuredbusinessfinance.com

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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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