Nobel prize winner Shri Amartya Sen laid great emphasis on the role of ‘human capital in the context of the prosperity of a nation and thereby leading to the question as to what human capital is without its productivity!

Productivity entails improvising quantitative outputs or qualitative outcomes to their optimum possible levels from available resources and circumstances. Therefore, the depth to which the concept of productivity bears implications in our lives is brought out by Charles Darwin’s well-known idea of ‘survival of the fittest.'

Contemporary philosophical guru, Guru Gaur Gopal Das, much revered by youngsters in recent times reminds us of the befitting role of productivity in saying that we often say that we spend time, instead it should be treated as an investment. Something spent implies it is gone. However, the time when invested in it, brings in productivity; thus, making life fruitful.

Ever since the origin of mankind, the pursuit of improving productivity has been a catalyst in bringing about substantial leaps in civilizations. Right from improvising tools for self defence, the industrial revolution, and materials for clothing and architecture to developing theories on medicine, personnel management, and human relations, raising productivity levels of man and material has been a focal point. This brings us to the point of elaborating on the concept of productivity per se.

Productivity in economic terms is a measure of performance that establishes a correlation between inputs used and outputs with the help of such inputs. Therefore, economic theories from Adam Smith declared that “wealth is created through productive labour”. This brought out the need to identify the concept of division of labour to enhance the levels of quantitative productivity and thereby trade.

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The theories of motivation put forth by Abraham Maslow and Hertzberg are directed at realizing the needs, wants and motivational push factors with the objective to increase the productivity of labour. Maslow suggested the identification of deficiency needs as different from growth wants in the form of a hierarchy with physiological needs and the need for safety & security as basic needs followed by love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization in that order. With such identification, productivity was sought to be impacted by suitable gratification of such needs and wants. In a similar direction, Hertzberg too sought to identify the further specification of needs and wants into hygiene factors and motivators. The hygiene factors are those which cause dissatisfaction when non-existent and therefore reduce productivity in their absence. Hertzberg believed that salary, working conditions, work relationships, policies, and rules were such kinds of factors that if were not conducive would thereby, reduce productivity. On the other hand, factors such as responsibility, personal growth, recognition, achievement, and opportunities for advancement were those that would significantly increase productivity, if they existed positively.

On similar lines, the well-known management theories of Fredrick Winslow Taylor and Henry Fayol brought about various streamlining of ideas with the purpose of increasing the productivity of labour. But these ideas were restricted to quantifying productivity and optimizing it, given the conditions existing on the shop floor.

Subsequent ideas of management relied upon the concept of human relations rather than the carrot-and-stick approach to raise productivity levels. Elton Mayo brought out that positive social bonds in the workplace and acknowledgment of the worker as a unique individual were significant factors that helped raise productivity levels. It is apt to note the views of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who stated that “leaders can create a high productivity level by providing the appropriate organisational structure and job design and by acknowledging and appreciating the hard work”.

Organisational productivity too has been a subject of cross-national studies, by which recent managerial training now concerns the concepts of Total Quality Management, and project management techniques like PERT and CPM. The Japanese principle of the 5S too has been of great interest with a view to its role in increasing productivity. It signifies order, purity, cleanliness, and commitment.

While management theories and economic thought schools influenced policymakers and management towards raising the productivity of labour for the organizations and thereby, the productivity of nations in terms of Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Product, at the micro level, productivity matters even at an individual level. As cited above, individuals seek to grow beyond a certain point of fulfillment of basic needs. Adding to this, are constraints such as health, time, knowledge, budget, availability of tools and motivation, human relations, and individual practices and procedures in ascertaining one's productivity in every walk of life.

To elaborate, each individual struggles to learn and adapt toward balancing his goals and targets in life with that of constraints that he or she faces in every stage of life. As a student, peer pressure, parental control, restrictions, and institutional requirements enforce him/her to identify one's weaknesses and work on them amidst the urges of childhood and youthhood, in order to maximise his productivity and achieve his targeted grades and intended appreciation. In the context of relationships, they are believed to be productive only when the relationship helps the individual to grow psychologically as against toxic relationships which deteriorate each other’s personality.

On similar lines, an individual often strives to live to his optimum capabilities to keep up with his individuality. As such, individual tastes and preferences which give rise to practices, habits, and thereby, his character are primary factors which bring out his optimum productive capabilities.

Thus, determination to be productive gives rise to adapting to ideas to bring out the best in oneself. These ideas are often received from and handed out by grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, work relationships, and even from one’s own experiences.

As such an individual may increase his productivity by increasing his resource in terms of knowledge, supporting tools, and manpower and lastly, by adopting good practices. Assessment of one self and realisation of one’s priorities, given the constraints identified, is primary knowledge towards acknowledging weaknesses and targets associated with such priorities and weaknesses. Once the targets and constraints are clearly delineated, factors which would help attain the targets within the framework given by resources and constraints can be identified. These may include tools and practices like diary writing, post-it notes, using note-making software to help put down ideas, practicing yoga to keep up a stable mind, avoiding procrastination, realising the need for self-care, investing in relationships and social bonding are some of the steps towards effectively increasing individual productivity. The role of time management in keeping up with productivity is undeniable.

With this, it may be appropriate to conclude that productivity as a concept has been approached from various perspectives to bring about changes in an individual, at the organisational level, and at the policy-making levels of the civilisations. It is a crucial factor which helps meet goals and constraints to the optimum possible scenario, be it for oneself or for the benefit of others!

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