The Stockdale Paradox and Productivity

Stockdale Paradox

If you want to pump up the productivity in 2012, let the Stockdale Paradox guide your efforts. The Stockdale Paradox describes the mindset held by Vice Admiral James Stockdale, a U.S. Navy officer held as a prisoner of war for seven years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale never lost faith that he would eventually get out of the POW camp; his description of his coping strategy to James C. Collins ended up in the latter author's business book "Good to Great":

"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end -- which you can never afford to lose -- with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Self-Awareness and Productivity

The Stockdale Paradox translates to productivity nicely. To become ridiculously efficient, you must recognize a variety of "brutal facts" about your output:

  • Your current work style
  • Your workload and job responsibilities
  • Your weaknesses and vulnerabilities
  • Your attention span and energy levels

Awareness of these limitations -- and the faith that you will overcome them to be a more effective worker -- will keep you motivated and focused as you put yourself through your paces and ultimately boost your efficiency.