The seven thoughts that drive highly productive organisations

If an organisation is the sum total of its results, then its results are the aggregate of its thoughts. Defining a relationship between the achievements of an organisation and its thought space is not a difficult thing to do. Look at it this way, to be successful, an organisation must first think that it can achieve the productivity outcomes that it hopes for. Therefore, however you present the challenge of organisational productivity, all roads point back to its ‘thought-life’. Yes, productivity is the output of actions and actions are the output of organisational thinking.

Ok, but how do organisations distil the cacophony of noise in their thought-space, into a series of critical signals capable of driving productivity? Well, here is a clue, every organisation operates much like a living organism, with thoughts hard-wired towards survival. Consider the physiological functions of respiration, consumption, excretion, protection and reproduction, did you know the same primary functions are performed by every organisation? Of these functions, respiration is the one that is analogous to organisational productivity. As with living organisms, respiration is the breath of life. Likewise, if an organisation cannot breathe it cannot survive and if it cannot survive, it eventually dies.

The scene is now set. Here are the seven thoughts that drive highly productive organisations.

1. Are we profiting with it or better off without it?

As brutal as it may seem, there is zero relationship between productivity and sentimentally. Whilst not dispassionate, highly productive organisations operate without sentimentality. As such, they can keep their thoughts obsessively focused on value. Specifically, an ‘at-all-costs’ approach to the measurement and retention of value. In doing so, they waste no time is unburdening themselves of anything that is no longer able to provide ‘nourishment’ to the health and well-being of the organisation. In practical terms, highly productive organisations are compulsively attentive to the enhancement of their labour force as well as the labour force supply chain. They are consumers of competence.

2. Risk is good, but riskier can be even better

For every organisation, risk is an ever-present reality. However, highly productive organisations have a unique perspective on risk. Specifically, they think less about the existence of risk and more about their co-existence with risk. It is this subtlety of approach, that helps to ensure that highly productive organisations retain a healthy risk appetite. Imagine the difference in thinking between two organisations that study the behaviour of sharks. One chooses to conduct the study within a shark’s cage (focusing on mitigation of risk) while the other conducts the study outside the cage amongst the study subjects (focusing on co-existing with risk). The predicate here is that when organisations take on more risk, they can be more productive and with greater productivity comes great success.

3. Forget about last thing and think about the next thing

Who spends time thinking about their last breath? On the contrary, to the extent that any thought is given to the function of breathing it would be on the next breath not the last one. In the context of breathing, productivity is an organisation’s respiratory impulse. With inputs it inhales and with outputs and outcomes it exhales. The higher the input and output cycle, the more rapid the respiratory rate. A highly productive organisation is constantly thinking about the next thing. They reason that if they have something to aim for, then they have something to strive for and if they have something to strive for then they have something to gain. Whether an organisation has a big vision or a smaller target, having something to aim for means that an organisation’s thinking is a bridge from where they are to where they need to be.

4. Making lemonade and building ladders

Highly productive organisations are attentive to how they can turn lemons into lemonade and use sticks to build ladders. Obviously, lemonades and ladders are metaphors for how an organisation makes the case for doing something rather than doing nothing. An organisation with this kind of can-do attitude opens its thought pathways to fresh ideas, new possibilities and innovative solutions that take them closer to success. By contrast, a can’t do attitude crowds out solutions and makes it easier for organisations to doubt and delay. It is sobering to think that doubt and delay is its own belief system, albeit one that traps organisations in mediocrity and limits their access to opportunity.

5. Comfortable discomfort

As a rule of thumb, unless organisational thinking causes sober examination, restlessness and second guessing, it is nigh on impossible for such an organisation to fully optimise its productive potential. Every organisation knows its comfort zone. These are the environments within which they are least threatened, moderately challenged and most assured. However, they are also places where they are unlikely to be tested and least likely to experience exponential growth and dynamic progression. In the context of productivity, comfortable discomfort is geared towards injecting disruptive energy into the organisational ‘blood-stream’. To that extent. the thinking that dominates these organisations will help to ensure that they will be better placed to maximise their resource capacity.

6. Delayed delight

Organisations that apply the principle of ‘delayed delight’ are driven by the need to think about the big picture and longer-term goals. With organisational productivity there is always a tendency to focus on immediacy, low hanging fruit or the here and now. By contrast it takes mature organisational thinking to resist the temptation to act impulsively and do things that can produce rapid results instead of taking a longitudinal view that will achieve sustainable outcomes. When organisations face challenges or crises, their first instinct is often to travel the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance often delays and defers until tomorrow what ought to be done today.

7. The accountability default

Few things are more self-destructive to organisational productivity than the excuse. Organisations that make excuses only serve to disempower themselves and justify their mediocrity. Organisations that get in the habit of making excuses, orientate their thinking towards deniability, rather than accountability. Such organisations quickly become complacent and those that believe their excuses perpetuate a state of self-denial. By contrast, the thought process of highly productive organisations is to explain and not excuse. The predicate of explanation is accountability, not deniability. As such, explanation is evidence of the ability to understand and the capacity learn. In simple terms, those who understand where they have got it wrong the first time are more likely to be trusted to get right the next time.

Thinking is an incredibly powerful tool which, once harnessed, can have a transformational impact on an organisation’s productivity levels. Those organisations best able to demonstrate mastery in the ‘discipline of thinking’ are the ones that think quickly, can hold complex thoughts and think critically. However, the organisations that are most likely to be productive are the ones that perform each of these functions at the same time.



Believer, host of The 11th Thing Podcast, blogger, mentor, student of leadership, social economist & thinker. Creator of .

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Paul Aladenika

Believer, host of The 11th Thing Podcast, blogger, mentor, student of leadership, social economist & thinker. Creator of .