Engagement vs. Efficiency

By Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

The Atlantic has a piece describing how the standards of the machine have wrongly been applied to human performances.

It’s time to rethink productivity. More output, produced faster may be great metrics for machines, but for homo sapiens, the most powerful metric is engagement. Engagement is about process, outcomes, and quality. Engagement values the methods and the results versus focusing completely on the output.

The vascular surgeon who “slows down to speed up,” operates on patients with engaged attention. He’s in a flow state. When you’re doing your best at a sport, like skiing, and you have that feeling of mind and body being in the same place at the same time, you’re in a flow state. You can witness engaged attention when you watch children at play.

What if schools evaluated students and teachers on engagement versus today’s standardized tests? Research indicates that engaged teachers are effective teachers. Engaged students aren’t likely to drop out. They’re likely to be cultivating every quality we could hope for: curiosity, initiative, resourcefulness, and mastery of material.

What if, at work, employees were measured on engagement? The most cutting-edge companies do this. Zappos.com and GoDaddy.com train telephone support personnel to engage with customers. This results in job satisfaction for the employee and increased customer loyalty and trust — a desirable outcome. Companies that measure phone support staff on older productivity metrics look primarily at number of minutes on the phone and effectiveness at upselling customers — measures of output.

What if we rethink productivity? Today, we define productivity for humans the same way we do for machines. What if we create metrics around engagement, for schools, for the workplace, and for our lives? Instead of evaluating output, we could evaluate process, outcomes, and quality.

What difference would these changes make? What systemic and attitudinal changes would have to occur to make such changes possible?

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