FacebookFacebook icon TwitterTwitter icon LinkedInLinkedIn icon Email

Brain circuits

How productive are you, honestly?

Published 4 April 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

This exercise helps you shorten your to do-list to become more productive. The math has already been done for you.

Ask yourself the following three questions:

  • Are you prioritizing? (Hopefully, yes)
  • Are you making space for the essentials? (You should be)
  • Is your main concern sticking to the schedule? (It shouldn’t be)

We often feel the need to go full pelt at the start of the year, full of ideas and energy, in the name of feeling productive. But consider reshaping your concept of high productivity around the nature of your high-leverage activities:

Andy Grove, the legendary former chief executive and chairman of Intel, described the productivity (“output”) of a manager as “A manager’s output = the output of her organization + the output of the neighboring organizations under her influence”.

Let’s imagine you are seeking to increase the output of your own organization (part one of the equation). You could try to speed up your own work, but that’s likely to lead to burnout. Option 2 would be to increase your managerial leverage. So how would that look?

  1. Many people would be affected by your presence and/or
  2. A single person’s behavior would have changed over time by one brief encounter with you.

The above might come about thanks to training – “one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform,” in Grove’s yes.

Grove was an engineer. He made Intel deliver microprocessors with doubling computing power every eighteen months. Like clockwork.

When you invest time in training your own people, you get to delegate more with trust. But don’t think that’s you being unproductive; it is in fact another way for you to further increase your leverage.

Now for part two of the equation: “How can I increase the output of neighboring organizations?” Grove recommends you supply them with a unique key piece of knowledge or information. A good example would be a data-driven suggestion – an emerging trend of what works and what doesn’t. This stops predictions without seeing the full picture.

Put another way, a summary report given can quickly change the day-to-day practice of employees. That’s leverage.

Further Reading: High Output Management, by Andrew S Grove


Howard Yu - IMD Professor

Howard H. Yu

LEGO® Chair Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD

Howard H Yu is the LEGO® Chair Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD and the Director of IMD’s Center for Future Readiness. He is the author of the award-winning book LEAP: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied. Howard directs our Future Readiness Strategy and Business Growth Strategies programs.


Learn Brain Circuits

Join us for daily exercises focusing on issues from team building to developing an actionable sustainability plan to personal development. Go on - they only take five minutes.
Read more 

Explore Leadership

What makes a great leader? Do you need charisma? How do you inspire your team? Our experts offer actionable insights through first-person narratives, behind-the-scenes interviews and The Help Desk.
Read more

Join Membership

Log in here to join in the conversation with the I by IMD community. Your subscription grants you access to the quarterly magazine plus daily articles, videos, podcasts and learning exercises.
Sign up

You have 5 of 5 articles left to read.