Did You Create Anything Today?

Or – perhaps – the better question is:

Can you measure how you added value?

For the last, oh, twenty five years or so, I’ve worked in places where more wasn’t better – not by a long shot (at least when you talk about sheer volume).

My first job, working with young people was terrific, and while I slowly grew a program – more wasn’t always better. Turns out –that deeper relationships often trumps lots of less significant ones.

My second job was working with adults with developmental disabilities. We had two houses, then three – and – that was about enough. Sure – we could have added a fourth, and then a fifth –but a part of the charm and most of the quality came from long term relationships, minimizing turnover, and the slow and steady joy of being with people for a long time.

My third job was working for a theatre company – and while a few more tickets would have been great – the size of the theatre is just perfect: No mics needed (most of the time), every seat in the house a good one – the audience and actors right up next to each other. “Growth” in terms of ticket sales? Bring it on! Donations? That too! Huge theatre? Not so much. At some point – quality suffers when the only metric is quantity.

Currently, I help nonprofits with technology. Some growth would be okay – but really – I could do a lot of smaller projects, more quickly –but I don’t know that we’d have much impact. Our most successful projects are more in depth than that – and if I grow my team too quickly – I think I might also loose the culture that has made us successful.

I’ve become a reader of The Economist of late, and this weekend, I spotted this quote (taken in context of the financial mess, but written in 1984 by James Tobin):

I [suspect] we are throwing more and more of our resources, including the cream of our youth, into financial activities remote from the production of goods and services, into activities that generate high private rewards disproportionate to their social productivity. I suspect that the immense power of the computer is being harnessed to this ‘paper economy’, not to do the same transactions more economically but to balloon the quantity and variety of financial exchanges…I fear that, as Keynes saw even in his day, the advantages of the liquidity and negotiability of financial instruments come at the cost of facilitating nth-degree speculation which is short-sighted and inefficient.

And that set me to thinking. What did I create today, at work?

In my line of work – I don’t create much. I’m a step away from that – but my team does a lot – they do some pretty terrific things. Code that makes a website render, tools that allow for automatic donation processing, strategy that helps customers better identify their audiences, a whole mess of migrating data from sloppy to structured, and much, much more.

I measure my days more in terms of if I’ve removed obstacles or not to that work. Some days – I’m pretty successful – and others – not so much.

All told, though – my day to day work IS about creation – when we’ve completed a project there is something to show for it – and that makes me happy.

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2 Comments to “Did You Create Anything Today?”

  1. Well said, PCS. Mind if I quote you on my blog? mcb

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