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Role 3d6 for Personal Development

Role 3d6 for Personal Development

Any oldschool Dungeons and Dragons readers get that reference? If not, here’s my basic premise: view your personal development like you would character development in role playing games.

  • Capabilities- Some things you are born with, and others can be trained. For instance, strength can be developed to certain end points, but intelligence is something that one possesses a certain degree of, regardless of training. Training becomes more of a skill or toolset, taking advantage of your baseline intelligence. (Do we agree, or do you dispute my characterization of intelligence? – If you disagree, skip it and come back later). Other capabilities can be grown somewhat, like developing your endurance, etc.
  • Skills- Skills are things you learn, such as communication, interpersonal relationship tactics, how to build a LAMP stack repeatably. Skills are an area where you can focus a lot of effort, because they often have a direct reward for advancing your abilities. Learning a second language adds to your potential revenue value. Learning how to appreciate and interact with your family builds emotional strength and good will. Skills are a great area to target.
  • Equipment- Another constant in most role playing games (from paper and card-based games up into World of Warcraft) is the trusty old inventory concept. Do you have armor? Do you have a sword or a dagger? Would a lockpick be useful to you? Stretching this analogy out into personal development, equipment can become: laptops and smart phones for portability, special software to handle scheduling, budget, repeatable tasks, a portable media player to receive learning and information (like the Life Hack podcast).

What if you took your current situation and put it down on paper as if you were a character in a somewhat boring role-playing game? (Let’s face it: Office Wars isn’t a likely replacement title for City of Heroes). How would you characterize your capabilities? Are there any you should consider developing? What skills do you possess? What kind of equipment do you have to do the work at hand?

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When you have it all written down, take a look at it. What kind of character are you? How do you stack up against other people in the same game? What capabilities, skills, or equipment could you further develop to build your success rates with your current game?
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Write down a list of different “games” that you’d want to consider playing. Maybe you’re in software design, but believe you want to start up a company. Does your “character sheet” match the game? What skills should you add? How about in the crossover game of work-life balance? Do you have the skills required to make that all work?

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Use this new list matched to your existing list as a framework for development. Do you need some basic business skills to augment your career track as a software developer? Would learning about financial models help you manage your new team of colleagues in Vietnam, Bangalore, and Oklahoma?

Viewing your statistics as if they belong to a character in a game is a way to try and expand our vision of the situation we’re in. It gives you a sense of your world in a somewhat more manageable shape. From here, you might be able to consider permutations and variations. You can consider whether your French language classes, while interesting, are relating in any way to the things you need to better navigate your life and your career.

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Does this work for you? Should I roll a saving throw versus “bad analogy taken too far?” Choose your own adventure.

–Chris Brogan used to be a dungeon master. In ways, his project management career mimicked that experience. Now, he writes at [chrisbrogan.com] and develops content at GrasshopperFactory.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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