Adrienne Gormley, Dropbox on productivity
Adrienne Gormley, global head of customer experience at Dropbox, speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Productivity is the buzzword that’s killing creativity

26 Jul 2017

Who is sick of hearing the word ‘productivity’ in the workplace? Dropbox’s Adrienne Gormley certainly is.

“Everyone has a buzzword they never want to hear again,” said Adrienne Gormley, global head of customer experience at Dropbox. “For me, that buzzword is productivity.”

Gormley was speaking at Inspirefest 2017, which took place at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre earlier this month. The conference saw a number of thought leaders and inspirational people share their expertise, stories and thoughts on the future.

Given the current jobs climate, especially in the tech sector, it’s no surprise that the future of work played a huge role in many of the keynotes and panel discussions.

Peak productivity

We all know about productivity tips and apps that will maximise our working hours and get us from point A to point B as fast as possible. However, Gormley believes that productivity is a lazy term that is out of touch with modern culture.

“In a world that has us racing around from morning until night, we are working every minute and we are trying to squeeze the most out of every single day,” she said. “We simply cannot be more productive.”

To prove her point, Gormley listed out her daily tasks and they were far from alien to any other worker; starting with getting up, showering, getting dressed and heading to work before coming home again, having dinner, fitting in some quality family time, going to bed and starting all over again the next day.

‘The way we are working is not working’

In a time when there’s a million and one apps and tools showing us how to fit as much into our day as possible, Gormley believes maximising productivity is having a detrimental effect on our creativity and, by extension, our happiness at work.

“We need to switch the conversation from busyness and productivity to reimagining the human experience at work.”

Those pesky apps are not helping us, she said. “Instead of making our lives easier, it can add layers of complexity and distractions and cognitive overload.”

She spoke about busyness and overworking reaching its peak and, thankfully, coming full circle in some countries. While Japan still has one-fifth of its workers at risk of karoshi, which is death by overworking, Gormley praised the French government for implementing the right to disconnect.

“The way we are working is not working,” she said. “We are busy being busy about things that grind us down.”

Creativity is king

A McKinsey Global Institute study found that 61pc of our time is spent managing work and we’re only spending 39pc of our time actually doing it. “That’s a lot of time being busy and it’s a lot of time not being creative.”

For those in a creative job, Gormley’s words may speak volumes, but others might feel they don’t need time or space to be creative. However, they would be mistaken.

“The ability to think creatively and bring creative thought to business problems is uniquely human,” said Gormley. Creativity can benefit every aspect of an organisation.

However, she said this creativity is undermined by work environments that were built to maximise productivity. “We need to declutter.”

Gormley believes there needs to be a massive shift in the way we think about technology, and how it can help us. Indeed, the robots are definitely coming in the future of work, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

With things such as big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning taking the menial jobs that suck up time, it leaves others more time to think creatively about how to solve business problems.

However, it’s up to the companies to prioritise creativity, according to Gormley. “You have to make time for creativity.”

Many studies represent how people feel about their work environment, their creativity and their happiness. “Highly engaged workers are not chained to their desk,” said Gormley.

For companies to get the most out of their employees, she said there needs to be less focus on time spent and more focus on time well spent.

This, once again, comes down to productivity versus creativity, and Gormley believes creativity is king. “We have huge problems to solve, and creative thinking is what will get us there.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Ultra Early Bird Tickets for Inspirefest 2018 will be on sale soon. Sign up here to be the first to know when!

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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