At a simple level, cognitive productivity is just using the brainpower at your disposal to deliver the optimum outcome, weather that brainpower be resident between your ears, or between the collective ears of many in a group.

However, it is also much deeper than that. The notion of cognitive overhead how much effort there is in understanding something comes from this post  by David Demaree, a software engineer in Chicago, which was prompted by the early iterations of Google+. Cognitive Overhead — “how many logical connections or jumps your brain has to make in order to understand or contextualize the thing you’re looking at.”

As conceived, it applied to software engineering, and the resulting products, but it seems to me it has much wider application.  All those remotes that run our “entertainment centers” are testament to that, what happened to the simple old TV remote, one device, did everything without a science degree?.

Clay Shirky talks about the notion  of cognitive surplus.  This idea proposes that people are motivated by the opportunity to create and share, no longer just by the command and control ideas of the hierarchical employer where money and power emanating from a position description are what counts. The real power in the new economy comes from individuals, and the power vested in them to create by the digital revolution. Even if that creation is just another silly cat picture posted on Instagram, it is nevertheless a creative action taken by someone who could not have done it just a few years ago

If you put the two notions of cognitive overhead and surplus together, you have a recipe for cognitive productivity. Leveraging the cognitive surplus in a manner that minimises cognitive overhead, to deliver greater and greater value to society.

That my friends, is the future!