According to a collection of researchers centered around MIT, In today's knowledge-based economy, it pays to be an "information hub". I am not sure I believe the conclusions, based on the information presented.
The researchers found that information workers whose strong e-mail networks allow them to receive new information sooner than their peers -- or to receive more pieces of new information -- are likely to be more productive than their less well-connected counterparts. Workers who are "information hubs" complete more projects in a given period of time and thus generate more revenue for their firm.
If that last statement is born out by the research, there would be something to write about. However, this brief article doesn't give me enough to believe that this particular conclusion is valid.
It seems to me that they are interchanging productivity and utilization in the overview (and in the related research brief). Productivity is some measure of dollars created / dollars spent (output over input). Utilization is hours hours / hours available. These are very different measures. I'm much more interested in the effective use of resources, rather than whether they are working all the time.
Highlights of the study in bold with my comments after:
- Information technology enhanced productivity by facilitating multitasking.
People are multitasking but the article explicitly states that they are not necessarily getting projects done faster. In other words, no productivity gain.
- Multitasking can be productive — but only up to a point.
I've heard variations on this one before. I take this as being a hint that the level of acceptable multitasking being related to how close to the constraint the person is. Any multitasking on the constraint is a guaranteed killer. Multitasking far away from the constraint likely has no impact on revenue.
- Access to new information has productivity benefits.
This one has an actual dollar figure attached to it - more variety of inputs (as measured by unique words in the input stream) is associated with more revenue.
- E-mail discussions occur more readily between people with things in common.
- A diverse network of contacts is associated with higher productivity.
These last two run counter to one another, but shouldn't be surprising. Diverse inputs means you are hearing (reading) things that the rest of your affinity group may not hear.
There is slightly more detail in the research brief, Information, Technology and Information Worker Productivity: Task Level Evidence (May 2007). I also note another brief on productivity, Measuring the Impact of Electronic Data Management on Information Worker Productivity (Jan 2008).
I was introduced to this article via Tim Duncan at Headshift (I assume "timd" = Tim Duncan), Information hubs in a post-email world. Tim highlights the aspect that the research is based entirely on email analysis, ignoring people who are conversation hubs in real life AND ignoring the many other mechanisms people can receive a variety of transitive information.