The workers who were only moving twelve tons of iron a day were now moving forty-eight tons a day. They increased their productivity by four times.
Taylor’s workers objected to having their movement closely watched and timed. Taylor’s stopwatch was timed according to the hundredth-of-a-minute. The movement of the sun was more important to the concept of time than it was to the stopwatch hand. The height of a corn stalks, the availability of daylight, and the day of the first frost ruled the work of the farmhands.
Taylorism wanted to produce the most work in the least amount of time. Taylor was trying to reduce the amount of waste. He wanted the motions to be as quick and efficient as possible. Each hundredth of a minute he wanted the job to be done. Scientific management swept through the industrial world. Without adopting it, companies couldn’t stay in business.
There is no point in a worker sitting down. If the worker keeps moving iron, he will move more iron than the worker who stops for a smoke break. Taylor found a limit.
Taylor discovered that it didn’t work that way. If you want to get the highest output possible out of the minimum amount of time, take your efficient movements and fill all of the time with them.
The point of diminishing returns is a concept in economics. If we imagine Frederick Taylor filling the yard of Bethlehem Steel with workers, we can see the point of diminishing returns. There is a point of diminishing returns.
Taylor adds another worker. The workers are moving a lot of iron. Taylor can keep adding workers, and the productivity in the yard will go up by forty-eight tons for each worker. Imagine Frederick Taylor has a single worker moving iron. The worker is moving forty-eight tons of iron a day thanks to Taylor.
They will run out of space. There is not enough room in the yard for the workers to pick up the iron and move it around. They get in each other’s way, they run into each other, or one worker will have to wait for another worker to finish his job before he can finish his job. Until…
Taylor doesn’t get an additional forty-eight tons of production when he adds a worker. He only gets forty. It is not a big deal. They are still moving more iron than before. They are still making more profit because of their high margins.
It is not a big problem at first. Taylor has reached the point of diminishing returns. The point of diminishing returns is the point at which each additional production unit doesn’t return as much benefit as the previous production units did The return is not as great.
At some point, Taylor hit the point of diminishing returns. The returns that the previous units of time brought were not brought by the additional time filled. He might have had no problem adding a fourth chunk of iron within ten minutes if he had told the worker to move three chunks of iron in ten minutes. One after another, he could string them together. He could fill up a day with those units and get what he wanted.
This concept can be applied to a single worker. The production unit is not the workers. The production unit is working. The output of a worker rose as Taylor filled the available time with motion.
Negative returns have a point. At some point, moving an additional chunk of iron in that same unit of time didn’t bring Taylor the returns he expected. Let’s say that number was five chunks of iron within ten minutes. The worker might be able to keep it up for an hour, but soon he would get tired. The worker couldn’t move the fifth chunk of iron within a minute. The worker was too tired. The point of diminishing returns was reached by Taylor.
Workers were waiting for one another or getting in each other’s way. The yard of Bethlehem Steel is very busy. The workers are always in each other’s way. They are getting tired holding the iron. There are a lot of injuries. The steel yard is collapsing. Taylor is adding workers at the steelyard. After the point of diminishing returns, Taylor isn’t getting forty-eight tons of output per worker, nor is he getting forty tons of output per additional worker.
Taylor has reached the point of negative returns. He is getting less output per worker. If one worker stayed home, he would get less output than he would have.
Taylor is far beyond the point of diminishing returns. He is not getting the output he expected. The point of diminishing returns is that.
Scientific management is easy when you are moving iron. You can experiment with the amount of iron moved. You will find the right formula eventually. Industrial work is not creative work.
Some ideas are more valuable than others. There are a number of ways in which creative work is different. There are three ways to do it.
Actions don’t link to results in creativity. It doesn’t take long to come up with an idea.
Some ideas are more valuable than others. You could write two 50,000-word novels in parallel. If you do the same amount of work on the first novel as you do on the second novel, you will be doing the same amount of work. You spend the same amount of time writing the first novel as you do the second. Some ideas are more valuable than others.
Both of them are free of spelling mistakes. Both of them are quality writing. One sells a million copies while the other sells zero. The first novel sold zero copies. The second one sells a million copies.
Not all ideas have the same market value. For the same amount of work, the difference in market value can be infinite. Nobody knows why one novel falls flat and the other takes off, even if the performance of the traditional publishing industry tells us anything.
It takes time to come up with ideas. Words typed are a worthy unit of output to track if you are trying to convince yourself you are a writer. The quality of ideas is what matters.
We will talk about that next, as all of the things leading up to having an idea take time. The act of having an idea takes no time at all. Creative work is different from moving iron because it takes time.
Again, sitting yourself down and forcing yourself to come up with ideas is a great exercise. It will increase the output of ideas you have, it will build your skill in your craft, and it will increase the chances that one of those ideas will be a hit. People can be given a creative problem if they look at their brains. The people can solve the problem in an instant, if they want to.
It takes no time at all to have an idea. You could have a lot of ideas in a single unit of time. You may be just as likely to have that idea while not working. The speech from episode 218 was about the Four Stages of creativity. He said that his ideas didn’t come to him at the writing table.
Creative work is different from moving iron because actions don’t link to results. Actions are not linked to immediate results in creative work.
Creative work doesn’t work that way. If you hold a chunk of iron and pick it up off the ground, you have accomplished something. You have moved that piece of iron a little closer to its destination.
Think about Paul McCartney singing a song. In a dream, McCartney heard the melody for yesterday. He thought it was a melody he had heard before. He thought it was a song his father had played when he was a child. You have an idea for a novel that sells a million copies. What happened to it?
The song is called “Answer Me, My Love”. The song has stood the test of time. Musicologists have found similarities to other songs.
All of my problems seemed far away yesterday. The lyrics of “Yesterday” are the same.
The lyrics of “Answer Me, My Love” are as such. It looks like they are here to stay.
I believed that love was here to stay. Yesterday she was mine.
It was knocked from the number-one spot by another version of “Answer Me, My Love.” It was the first time in the history of the UK pop chart that a song was replaced by another version of itself. McCartney did not steal from “Answer Me, My Love”. It is almost certain that he heard the song before. When McCartney was eleven years old, a version of “Answer Me, My Love” was the number one song on the UK charts.
You have an idea for a novel that sells a million copies. Maybe you took a vacation last month, so you are in the right state of mind to have this idea. Two days ago, you got a massage. You went on a hike earlier in the day, which may have made you think more clearly. The woman who wore the funny red hat was walking by the cafe. It could have been inspired by a book your mom read to you when you were three years old. Was McCartney influenced by this song? It is not certain, but it is plausible.
Time management was the birth of Taylorism. When we started to see time as a production unit, it was then. We are done with time management.
It doesn’t work that way. Taylor learned that human energy doesn’t neatly pack together to fill all available time, even in work as simple as moving chunks of iron. We have limits that we can not exceed. When we think of time as a production unit, we assume that each additional unit of time we spend will give us the same gain in output as the previous unit of time.
People say there is only twenty-four hours in a day. The conclusion we are supposed to draw from that is that time is precious and so you better fill it all up. We are still treating time as a production unit. We fill our calendars with boxes. It’s called “calendar Tetris.” We live by that calendar.
It was a big leap forward to fill up that time. There is a limit if there is only twenty-four hours in a day. Time management is squeezing blood from a stone. The stone is very fragile when it comes to creative work.