Did You Take Your Productivity Pills Today?


How do we bring out the best in employees? Provide them the right tools to do their jobs? Optimum working conditions? In professional sports steroids get the job done. How far would corporations go if we had legal performance enhancing drugs? In a story for the Conference Board Review, Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, asks how far a company should go to improve its workforce.

From the article:

“You may soon be forced to rethink everything you thought you knew about improving talent and bringing out the best in people. All over the world, the best-performing people in the best-performing organizations always look to get better at getting better. In tomorrow’s global markets, being the best will increasingly depend on ready access to the best technologies, the best (and presumably legal) drugs, and the best coaching and mentoring money can buy.”

If you don’t believe corporate America will embrace they types of technology Schrage refers to, consider the case of coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant that has been provided at no charge to millions of workers for decades. (I once knew an office manager who spiked it with sugar at the brewing stage to squeeze extra energy out of his employees.)

It’s not all about the drugs. How much pressure will executives receive to participate in self-improvement techniques such as counseling and coaching?

More from the article:

“Employees looking for an edge personally purchased the drug or the surgery or the technology or the coach. The firm allowed — encouraged? — employees to effectively subsidize the organization through their own portfolio of performance-enhancement investments.”

Schrage also ponders independent drug use by individuals:

“Is popping a pill to stay up all night to meet a deadline a leadership choice to be celebrated, accepted, ignored, or discouraged? Does it depend on the talent, or on the result?”

Extremely intriguing stuff. All the more reason to shore up those business ethics.

Check out the full article here.

Image Credit: rodrigo senna

  • Very interesting take on increasing productivity. I guess no one should be surprised or shocked by the authors findings. People want in instant fix a magic pill to remove all their problems.

    However, those things only mask and sometimes escalate the problems.

    While few want to invest the resources necessary to uncover and remove the root cause(s) of their problem doing so is the only real solution.

    Increased productivity is a matter of leveraging the things you must do to get the most benefit.

    Sales and marketing are areas notorious for lacking both efficiencies and effectiveness aka their productivity is far less than it could or should be. All because everyone is searching for the instant fix rather than the process required to develop real productivity.

  • It unfortunate to know where things are heading. Isnt all this because there is a lack of balanced approach towards evaluating employee’s performance. Productivity or Result isnt the end of everything. An employee not as productive as the one with say, lower ethical or ‘poorer communication skills’ isn’t rewarded in most cases, in reality.

  • I just wonder how far we’ll go with artificial enhancers – in business, in academics.