Productivity can usually be defined as Output divided by Time. Basically, how much can you produce in a given amount of time?
To increase productivity, then, you have a few different options:
1. Produce more in the same amount of time
2. Produce the same in less time, or
3. Produce more in less time
In this post, I’m going to share a strategy that leverages the third option. It’s worked wonders for my own productivity and it’s something you can apply today in as little as an hour.
But first, let’s start with a brief background in economics.
Game Theory Maximizes Production
Game Theory was initially introduced to the field of economics in the 1940s as a strategic decision-making tool. The model is used to analyze various outcomes of the ‘game’ which depend on the decisions made by each player of the game. The game could be anything from war, to biology, to business.
When industrialism began to take root in the economic structure of society, maximizing production became a primary focus for businesses. When production of an item was seemingly maxed out, some companies decided to expand their product line in an attempt to further increase profits.
So instead of investing all of their resources in what they were really good at producing, they began reallocating their resources to produce other goods. All of sudden, instead of one company making Widget A, there were five companies making Widget A.
Solo Productivity has its limitations
In this Solo Production Model, we can see that a cell phone company who initially only made cell phones started to expand their production to include computers. Since their manufacturing plants were specifically designed to achieve maximum output of cell phones, their production of computers is minimal.
Likewise, with a computer company, they wanted to expand their production to include cell phones. While their profits may have increased slightly, it came at the expense of lower production.
When Cell Phones International Inc. invests their resources in both cell phones and computers, they achieve a production output of 8 and 2 respectively. When Computers Co. does they same, they achieve a production output of 2 and 8.
But what happens when the two companies strike a partnership and, instead of them each producing two products, they produce only what they’re really good at producing?
Mutually beneficial partnerships enable greater production
In this Partnership Production Model, each company focuses on producing only one product then strikes an exchange deal with a partner company.
This decision to narrow their focus and partner up ultimately leads to what economists call a Hicks Optimal outcome, which says that all players have maximized their payoffs (or in this case, production).
When Cell Phones International Inc. produces only cell phones, their production of the product is much higher. This is because they’re narrowing their focus and resource allocation. Similarly, when Computers Co. only produces computers, they nearly double their production of computers.
At the end of the day, when these companies trade their products, they both end up with more of each product than what they had when they were trying to expand their product line and do everything themselves.
The premise here is that higher productivity can be achieved by narrowing your focus and creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
Game Theory for the Information Age
In the Information Age, knowledge is one of the most valuable assets one can obtain. So how can you apply this economic model to accumulate more knowledge at a faster rate?
Answer: the Brain Exchange.
A Brain Exchange (or BrainX) is Game Theory applied to learning, resulting in more efficient knowledge acquisition by using focus and partnerships.
An easy example that demonstrates the efficiency of the BrainX is in reading books.
On average, let’s say that I can read one book in ten hours (1:10). If I include highlighting, taking notes, summarizing, and synthesizing the information I’ve acquired, maybe it adds up to 12 hours for one book (1:12). This is the highest level of production I can achieve when I’m obtaining knowledge on my own.
But what happens when I partner up with a friend through a BrainX?
Assuming he reads at the same rate I do (1 book in 12 hours), I could essentially double my production by having him share what he’s learned with me.
If he puts all his notes and ideas about the book he’s read on a Google Doc, I could spend up to an hour ingesting the core concepts of the book, saving me the 12 hours I would have spent reading it myself. Now I’m acquiring the information of two books in a matter of 13 hours (2:13).
The Effect of the BrainX: Exponential Learning
If I did this with two friends, I’m knocking out three books in a matter of 14 hours. If I set up a BrainX with three friends, I’m digesting four books in 15 hours. By partnering with more people and engaging in high-quality information exchange, my rate of learning increases exponentially.
The new rate at which I can acquire knowledge becomes one book in about four hours (1:4), resulting in a 200% increase in productivity.
Who said that speed reading is the only way to read more books?
If you’ve ever heard of the Mastermind concept, you can relate to the advantages offered when diverse thinkers from different backgrounds get together to discuss ideas, problems, and solutions.
In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill defines the mastermind as “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”
The BrainX is just a more simplified version of a mastermind that cuts through the small talk and echo-chambers of confirmation bias and allows you to achieve optimal information exchange in the most efficient manner available.
Proof of Concept
The concept of the BrainX isn’t necessarily anything new. Its long been proven valuable for anyone trying to learn more in less time.
There’s an app called Blinkist which is used by millions of people who are trying to increase their productivity. A small group of writers summarize books and extract the most important information so you can enjoy the content in a fraction of the time. Why spend 12 hours reading a book when you could spend 12 minutes reading the key insights and skip all the impractical fluff that fills so many of the pages?
Of course, the tradeoff here is the subjective term, “key,” which represents what’s important. What’s of little importance to someone else might be crucialfor you, but that’s the opportunity cost of saving time with the BrainX system.
This strategy isn’t only restricted to books, either.
Consider SparkNotes, a site that provides not only summarized versions of books, but also course study-guides, poetry, and more.
There’s also theSkimm, which assimilates all the world’s top news from across the internet and condenses it down to the strict need-to-know information.
And Joe Polish hosts the Genius Network event during which some of the most brilliant entrepreneurs come together to exchange success strategies.
You can use the BrainX with audio and video content, too. Think of audiobooks, podcasts, documentaries, and the abundance of educational videos on Youtube.
There’s hardly a shortage of media available for your consumption.
Remember, though, learning is an input item and optimizing productivity requires that your output must match or exceed your input.
While there’s plenty of people and resources to help you take advantage of the BrainX, keep in mind that there’s a tipping point at which you start seeing diminishing returns on your productivity. You can only have so many BrainX partners before the efficacy of the system becomes diluted.
More Than Just a Time-Saver
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” Phil Collins
Setting up a BrainX offers more benefits than just saving time.
Yes, the apps, websites, and other resources like the ones mentioned canincrease your productivity but they aren’t necessarily considered an ‘exchange’ because you don’t have to give anything, you’re strictly on the receiving end. And although you’re saving a little time, you’re missing out on some valuable benefits of a genuine exchange.
The basic idea of a BrainX is to slice and dice information and repackage it into concise, actionable content that can be absorbed and applied more easily by others. With this in mind, you get many opportunities to hone your teaching strategies.
When you know you’re going to be teaching the material you’re learning to someone else, you read, watch, and absorb content in an entirely different way. You’re forced to refine the process by which you synthesize information. And by experimenting with different media, you’re stretching your brain in new ways, pushing and expanding your learning limits.
Another benefit, though a bit more obscure, is relationship development.
Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, shares how he started setting up Brain Exchanges with people he meets at events. Instead of attending events and conferences trying to meet as many people as he could, he’d strategically pick out only a handful of people and take steps to extract their best ideas in one-hour skype sessions. Imagine the impact of condensing 20 or 30 years of someone’s professional life into a one-hour BrainX session.
Efficiency Committee APPROVES!
Vishen later admits that his BrainX sessions eventually evolved into a salable product in his company. His Brain Exchanges not only allowed him to gain more knowledge but also allowed him to gain more revenue in his business.
Some say knowledge is power but I’d argue that knowledge is merely potential. The power is in the execution — taking action on the knowledge you’ve acquired.
With this in mind, it becomes increasingly important to make sure that each Brain Exchanges you do engage in is as efficient and effective as possible.
Optimizing the Exchange
When setting up a BrainX, there are a few guidelines to consider which will help you and your partners get the most out of the exchange.
· Make sure there is an equal value exchange — You want to limit these partnerships only to those who you believe are willing (and able) to contribute. Without equal contribution, the exchange becomes lopsided and both value and productivity fail to reach maximum levels. Play with how many sessions you can handle without getting stretched too thin. Also experiment with different people; colleagues, family, friends, etc. After some trial and error, you’ll begin to notice what works and what doesn’t.
· Be selfish — Identify and understand exactly what it is you need to learn. Whether it’s to accelerate your professional development or to simply satisfy a lingering curiosity, it’s helpful to know and communicate whatyou want to learn and why it will be beneficial for you to learn it. This will not only help you identify the right people to partner with but also allow you target relevant information that can be used in your life immediately.
· Systemize the sessions — When engaging in multiple exchanges, it’s best to group all of your sessions together. Carve out some time on your calendar to dedicate focused attention to these sessions and make it a regular event so you avoid having to spend time coordinating them. I like using Google Docs because I can view and contribute to the session at a time that works for me. The docs also allow for organized discussion and questions, not to mention integration with many other productivity platforms (like my third brain, Evernote).
Try It Out
Knowledge has no value except that which can be gained from its application toward some worthy end. — Napolean Hill
Information is only as valuable as the results achieved through its application. So here’s a simple process to get started with the BrainX today:
1. Make a short list of information, skills, or ideas you’re interested in learning more about. (<5 minutes)
2. Invite a few people to start a BrainX, introducing them to the idea or even sharing this post with them. Expect some people to say no; not everyone has the same passion for productive learning as you do. (<10 minutes)
3. Be the example by making the first contribution to the session. Set the bar and make it really amazing. Extra points if you make it relevant to your partner’s current project or learning goals. (<45 minutes)
Hint: Is there any content, notes, or material you’ve already produced that can be refined and recycled to use in your BrainX session? Leveraging what you already have saves even more time while adding value to someone else’s life.
In less than an hour, you could be well on your way to doubling (or tripling) your rate of learning on a weekly basis.
For your convenience, here is a Google Doc template that you can use as a baseline to get started. Simply make a copy, export it, or do a quick copy/paste and you’ll be good to go.