The Productivity Paradox: While Technology Becomes More Advanced We Become Less Productive

Woman so swamped with work she's trying to use four laptops at once

Woman so swamped with work she's trying to use four laptops at onceWith the recent explosions in cloud computing and mobile services it seems that the US is innovating at a whirlwind pace, introducing new and better technologies every day that make our jobs easier and our work more efficient. Though the former is certainly true, the latter may not be the case. Yesterday in VentureBeat Jeff Bussgang wrote about the productivity paradox, or the fact that, while innovation is growing, the country’s productivity isn’t. How can this be?

Over the past 50 years or so the country has gone through periods of innovation and growth followed by periods of refinement and design that increase our productivity. This chart from Forrester Research demonstrates the pattern:

Graph of patterns in innovation and productivity

It turns out that while we feel more productive now with our new tech tools, we’re actually just catching up to technology. As Bussgang wrote,

“Those of us who are immersed in the innovation economy may find this hard to believe, but we are not, as a whole, actually more productive when we are in the midst of an innovation cycle boom. New technologies take time to absorb, refine, and make mainstream. Computer software can be reprogrammed quickly. Humans can’t.”

Until 2016 when, apparently, we’ll become more productive agan, you can always follow these tips for a more productive day and avoid these ways to ruin your productivity.

Lauren Mobertz

By Lauren Mobertz

Lauren is the former managing editor for DashBurst. One part geek, one part urban nomad, she is constantly scouting for the latest tech and world news. In the evenings you'll find Lauren running in strange places or attempting to dance salsa.


    1. Totally agree. My to-do list is written on in an old-fashioned notebook, every item gets crossed off when it’s done. No fancy apps for me!

  1. Its true to a certain extent, but I believe it really depends on each person and their ability to absorb change, technology supposedly increases productivity and is more time saving, however it takes time to change your tools every now and then, but it would actually be time saving if you stick to exactly what you need not simply because its new you would go for it.

    1. Yes, I completely agree! At a certain point it’s time to stop chasing what’s new and flashy and just stick to what works. Unfortunately this is not how the economy runs 🙂

  2. any addition of technology always creates opposing dynamics- some positive some negative- so an increase in speed means a higher demand for performance etc. thanks for the graphic- awesome.

  3. Great question. I may not always be more productive when I’m plugged in. But I am connected more and can share more around the net. But when I’m unplugged sort of speak…I’m more focused and engaged and thus do a better job with the task at hand. I think multitasking is over rated. It works when your out running errands though.

  4. I feel in many ways less productive – even though I know I’m getting more done. Although I might be X% more productive, the volume of “things that must get done” seems to be 3X. Therefore, I’m further behind than ever.

  5. I think it depends on what part you play in production and how technology is employed in your life. Being buried in emails, text messages, videos, mpgs and status reporting often takes time away from the “doing”, but automation and technology has enabled me to manage more micro-projects than ever before. My role is upgrading cell service in a given region in a short period of time. Typically 500 to 1000 sites need to be 4G LTE capable in 9 months time. Designs, drawings, leases, zonings, permits, contracts, purchases, installations, turn-ups, testings and integrations for 500+ sites using resources worldwide could not happen without cell-phones, laptops, jpgs, dwgs, pdfs, cloud- databases, WiFi and internet. The issue is reallly prioritization and “noise” filtering; knowing how and what information to send and receive vital for each player to accomplish their part in a timely manner. If technology remains a tool and aid the boost to production will be exponential. If technology becomes a focus and an addiction your productivity paradox holds true.

  6. Simply meaning that we (humans) need an upgrade too. For example a real dynamic interface in stead of using our fingers and an odd 26+ characters to express our ideas, dreams, theories, science etc.

  7. I would recommend checking out for an online productivity tool.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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