All posts in Communication

  • Is information overload starting to stall productivity growth?

    Car in trouble after the thaw

    I saw two interesting data points over the last week: The first on stalling workforce productivity, and the second on email/information overload. I can’t help but think that the two are closely related.

    1. The end of productivity growth (Wall Street Journal)

    The US Federal Reserve has come out with some alarming research showing that the productivity benefits of the technology boom are starting to slow.

    “The writers note that from the early 1970s through 1995, productivity rose about 1.5% per year. Then the pace more than doubled between 1995 and 2003, likely reflecting the technology boom… they say the recent slowdown in productivity growth predated the Great Recession and “appears to mark a pause in—if not the end of—exceptional productivity growth associated with information technology.”

    2. Email overload rising (The Conversation)

    This is a nice holistic look at email overload, from a cause/effect/potential solutions perspective. The authors cite research that shows 87% of UK employees are suffering from email overload, with 53% unable to cope with the volume of email.

    The article identifies four critical challenges with email (and then look at how the major tech players are trying to respond).

    The four challenges:

    • “We’re addicted to email – one in three people respond to email within seconds.
    • We’re poor at managing our inbox, leading to a failure to cope with the information it contains.
    • We don’t write email in succinct, understandable language, adding unnecessary complexity.
    • And we find it difficult to switch off, with smartphones allowing us to access work email 24-hours a day.”

    To summarise the article, not much is working and the problem continues to get worse (despite the best efforts of the major tech companies).

    This is completely in line with what we’re seeing day-to-day with our work at Intrascope… and any problem that’s affecting 87% of the workforce is clearly a major productivity killer.

  • The future of work in 29 powerful charts

    Below are 29 powerful charts that I saw over 2014. I think these hold the keys to what we’re going to see the work look like over the next 10-15 years. There’s some genuinely fascinating stuff here that’s been dug out from a range of sources (some common, some less so). I hope you find these as interesting and powerful as I do. All the sources are linked, in the case you’re looking for some deeper beach reading.

    I’d also like to wish everyone on the Management Disrupted mailing list a Merry Christmas! I look forward to continuing the conversation in 2015.

    1. The environment is getting significantly more complex

    BCG complexity index

    Source: BCG

    2. Organisational complexity: We’re just getting started

    Complexity 2

    Source: EIU

    3. Where are the biggest complexity issues?

    Net future increase in complexity

    Source: KPMG

    4. Where is the complexity coming from?

    The causes of complexity

    Source: KPMG

    5. Organisational complexity: Yes, things are getting faster

    Consumption spreads faster

    Source: New York Times

    6. Organisational complexity: Yes, things are getting faster

    Technology adoption rates

    Source: MIT Technology Review

    7. The “new normal” is being driven by technology, not just economics

    Technological uncertainty

    Source: HBR

    8. How are companies dealing with complexity? With more complexity! (CEO span of control)

    Functional managers

    Source: Harvard Business School

    9. How are companies dealing with complexity? With more complexity! (Management as a percentage of all employment)


    Source: Allied Social Science Associations

    10. Management evolution: The decline of the COO

    COO prevalence

    Source: CFO Magazine

    11. Organisational structures grow to match the source of value creation: See the rise of the CFO

    Prevalence of the CFO

    Source: American Sociological Review

    12. Value creation today is all about the people: Intangible assets now represent c.85% of the balance sheet

    The source of corporate value creation

    Source: Deloitte University Press

    13. Hype versus reality: Where is the real technological disruption coming from?

    Hype Cycle 2014

    Source: Gartner

    14. Hype vs reality: The automation of knowledge work is perhaps the biggest trend you’re not hearing about

    Hype vs economics

    Source: McKinsey Global Institute

    15. The economic impact of technological disruption

    Potential economic impact

    Source: McKinsey Global Institute

    16. Technological disruption is just getting started: Technology and job losses


    Source: EIU

    17. The automation of the worker is very real

    Automation is real

    Source: McKinsey Global Institute

    18. The rise and rise of knowledge work

    Growth of knowledge work

    Source: The Work Foundation

    19. The rise and rise of knowledge work: There is still significant services growth to come

    Employment in services

    Source: EIU

    20. The rise and rise of knowledge work: It’s not as easy to standardise returns in knowledge work

    Performance variability

    Source: McKinsey Global Institute

    21. At the intersection of complexity and the rise of knowledge work, we see companies have a shorter lifespan than ever before

    Competitveness over time

    Source: McKinsey

    22A. The changing organisation: Technological disruption and complexity means bigger organisations with less employees

    Companies - Past


    Source: Company releases (mid 2014)

    22B. The changing organisation: Technological disruption and complexity means bigger organisations with less employees

    Companies - Present


    Source: Company releases (mid 2014)

    22c. The changing organisation: Technological disruption and complexity means bigger organisations with less employees

    Companies - Future

    Source: Company releases (mid 2014)

    23. Organisational complexity: The status quo isn’t sustainable


    Source: EIU

    24. Organisational complexity: How are organisations responding?

    Complexity 4

    Source: EIU

    25. Great design is no longer optional (and is a response to shortcut complexity)

    Design thinking

    Source: Google Trends

    26. In the face of complexity, we seek familiarity

    Regular employee credibility

    Source: Edelman

    27. Leadership authenticity is the only choice (There’s no time to craft credible narratives)

    The social CEO

    Source: Weber Shadwick

    28. Surprising workforce data: Employee tenure is actually rising


    Source: EBRI

    29. Surprising workforce data: Departing CEO age and tenure is largely unchanged

    CEO age and tenure

    Source: The Conference Board

  • Talking without communicating

    Management Disrupted features regular posts on new thinking for management in knowledge work. You can subscribe via email here.

    I came across a couple of great articles this week that got me thinking about meeting productivity.

    Are you talking, or communicating?  (The Economist)

    Recent research showing that nearly half of all participants didn’t notice the insertion of nonsensical babble into the middle of conversation.

    On reading this article, my immediate thought was “I’d love to see this replicated on a 4pm conference call”. Which takes us to the next article…

    What people are actually doing on your conference call (The Atlantic)

    You’ve long suspected that nobody is paying attention on that conference call. And here’s the data to support it. This survey maps what employees are actually doing whilst they’re on mute. For up to 65% of people, that means pretending to pay attention to the conversation whilst getting other work or email done.

    This conference call research isn’t surprising – with the notable exception of the 47% of people who admit going to the bathroom whilst on mute!

    I’d put it down as a timely reminder to think about a large meeting minimisation strategy (and to regularly hold people to account for excessive meeting workload).

    For more info about me see the about page or follow me on Twitter @stevepell.