Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Sep 2018

Livability As Productivity

Avanceé has accidentally been speaking towards two roads, design as normative to computing and productivity’s redefinition. Most of this is tied to some simple and straightforward observations across several industries. Yet, even these two tracks point to a better or more perfect definition of the “living outside of the box” kind of innovation: livability.

There’s something interesting about many USA/NA conversations about areas such as transportation, education, etc. — a lot of it centers around “what does it mean to be productive?” Much of that definition of productivity begins around some conversation on return on investment. For what you put into sustainable and unsustainable systems, there has to be a measure of “overflow” by which those who invested get a positive outcome. But, when you stop quantifying that outcome in number such as efficiency, speed, profit, etc., you begin getting to those harder to define measures of happiness, contentment, livability, and more.

There’s a wonder then about taking livability and turning it (and similar hard-to-measure constructs. If we were to turn livability into that metric, then what does productivity look like:

  • How long can a call center agent stay seated and still maintain tonal responsibility with the customer?
  • Do we build schools and business parks with walking tracks or parks which separate parking from other spaces in order to foster more spontaneous interactions?
  • Does a credit for non-personal transportation to a workspace add to or take away from a company’s livability index, carbon credits, etc. as part of its reporting on environmental impact?

There are other questions like this worth considering as something of a livability index, and basically a definition of productivity (and consumption) which asks for active consideration of what makes a livable context.

When the box is “what is livable,” is there really productivity, or is there life?