Its hard to measure quality thinking. Its easy to measure other things: number of PowerPoint slides produced, number of words written, hours spent in the office.
But what is easy to measure is not necessarily better to measure.
Our brains think much faster than we can type or create pretty pictures in PowerPoint slides. Creating pretty pictures slows you down. If you take a course on speed reading they will tell you that you have to stop ‘vocalizing’ what you read. Your eyes can read faster than you can speak so when you say the words – even if its just inside your head – you slow down your reading speed.
If you spend your whole day messing around with the format on a PowerPoint slide you are also spending less time thinking and more time doing mechanical work. I always see people spending hours making a slide and then finally taking it to the boss who doesn’t like the idea – hours of work wasted when a simple two minute conversation would have saved the hassle.
But imagine if you spent the day daydreaming about what the future of your industry would be like. How people will be working and living in 10 years time. Or some other completely unrelated thoughts. You have no ‘output’ to show, so the perception might be that you are a slacker.
Imagine a consultant comes and reports to you. She spends three months and produces nothing but a simple one pager with their recommendations and solutions. You think you have been ripped off. On the other hand another consultant comes, spends long hours in the office and produces 100s of pages of work – than you feel satisfied that you got your money’s worth. Even though the one pager is simpler to understand and communicate.
Our old way of thinking has wired us to believe the longer hours someone spends in the office and the more they produce the better it is. This was suitable for the industrial era when people were working on an assembly line producing cars – not when we are moving towards a thinking economy.
The thinking world is going to be more impressed with your ideas and your creative output than your input. I don’t care if it took Michael Jackson 10 minutes or 2 years to come up with “Billie Jean” – I am more concerned with the output.
The world is moving towards a less is more model. Twitter works as it limits you to 140 characters of thought. You have to get to the point.
In a world where we are more productive than ever, ironically, we are also working harder than ever.
A single farmer can produce the same output in 2009 as it used to take 20 farmers to produce in 1809. Its easier to build shelter for people, bring us food or find entertainment. Yet – we work longer hours than ever before. Even though technology improves productivity, we simply have moved to taking more things on our plate – instead of using that time to think or relax.
Instead of having 5 or so numbers that we used to remember now our phone contact list is in the 100s. Whereas it would take you an hour to write a single letter and a couple of weeks to arrive to your friends place and now since we can do it instantly we have simply just started writing more emails.
Think about how you could simplify your life. How you could remember to chill a little – remember that thinking happens best when you have a clear mind, not when you are stressing over yet another meeting or another PowerPoint presentation. The winners of the new economy will be the ones with the best thinking – not the most hours spent producing.