A return to cottage work


This post is by Seth Godin from Seth's Blog


Businesses care about productivity. At the core of their ability to create a profit is the simple formula of work produced per dollar spent.

Frederick Taylor used a stopwatch to revolutionize the production of cars and just about everything else. By measuring the output of each person on the line, he was able to dramatically increase how much a company like Ford could produce for every hour of labor it used.

Working in a system like this can be exhausting. While it brings the comfort of knowing precisely what’s expected in any given moment, it’s also an endless tug of war between humanity and profit.

Many in the idea economy haven’t recognized the rare situation that they might be in. Better pay, better working conditions and a job that’s hard to measure with a stopwatch. So you’ve got the chef for the Grateful Dead cooking you lunch and a purple couch in the lobby, along with a long series of perks and benefits. I had one friend who worked at a law firm for two years before they realized that he kept switching departments every few months so he could avoid being asked to bill too many hours.

But management has never stopped looking for a way to measure output. Sooner or later, they do, or the company disappears. It can vary from the insulation of paying for your time (but keeping track of impact created) all the way to paying by the keystroke, the click or the sale.

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