Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Nov 2018

Perceiving Productivity Normally

Using an iPad to teach how to use a PC changes perceptions and behaviors of productivity

Over the past month, have been working with a long-time client on changing the methods used to teach a few base-applications. A previous shift, from published workbooks to organization-specific content (lived within their servers within the apps being taught), greatly increased skills retention and workshop engagement. This recent change leverages Office 365 and OneNote, using the iPad to teach those applications from OneNote’s perspective. It invites a different discussion about information transfer and retention for day-to-day tasks. This has initially proved to be quite insightful (the instructor’s view). However there is more to explore for those persons who want to employ the iPad or similar against their normal workflows — which this method of teaching seems to be exposing more of.

Replacing Productivity’s Definition?

iPad doesn’t just replace, it changes . The question gets asked each time a new model or major software update happens because the voices speaking about the platform and hardware are too far removed from what others do for. The end of the Mashable 2018 iPad Pro review says it nicely:

…It’s such an intimate creation process that it made me realize that Apple’s not merely trying to change my or your old habits. Apple’s not trying to make the iPad Pro a laptop replacement because the device isn’t one. It’s trying to do something bigger: invent a new way of creating for a new generation that is not bound to the old computing laws of clicking a mouse…

Not being bound to former methods is a invitation to think better about the jobs to be done for computing devices. And for much of what the complaints levy (moving files from one physical or virtual share to another, command-scripts for said files, approval queues, etc.), work is more like moving chairs around and a sense of control, that really isn’t work at all for most. The work is in figuring out what someone else needs to move their chairs around.

When Normal Isn’t

It is fairly normal to think about the perspective of a producer when thinking about productivity. As a matter of defining work, the perspective of a person producing the work is the only perspective that matters when doing the work. That said, what is normal about productivity might not be so normal at all. The ways in which people come up with solutions to do the job that is required, is a mix of creativity on top of the framework that defines success measures for the business. If the creativity can be repeated, it becomes a part of that framework,no longer defined as creative (definition: being a unique behavior unseen or unapplied previously) by the worker. If the framework cannot injest the behaviors, or those behaviors become detrimental to the operation of the business, then creativity as a facet of work becomes relegated to being pushed outside of the company.

So, then, what really is work? Or rather, what more aligns with the perspectives of what it means to have computing as a tool to aide/do behaviors considered productivity because we are instinctively creative?

This is one of the questions this experiment is looking to answer. However it also seems to be running alongside similar thoughts from others as it relates to connecting the “jobs to be done ” with the experience those jobs are to enable.