| John Spacey, December 16, 2016 updated on January 14, 2023
Efficiency is the ratio of useful work to wasted effort.Productivity is the amount that is produced for a unit of input.
Efficiency vs ProductivityEfficiency is a measure of waste, or rather how much isn't wasted. In order to calculate efficiency you need to know how much a unit of a resource could produce at a maximum under ideal circumstances.Productivity is how much you produce for a unit of a resource such as an hour of work. In order to calculate productivity you need to know how much was produced and how much of a resource was consumed.
Human vs MachineIt is more common to apply the term productivity to human efforts because human efficiency is too difficult to measure. Humans aren't light bulbs. It is known how much light a watt of electricity can produce at its maximum. It isn't known what an hour of human work can produce at its maximum. For example, an artist might produce an artwork in a few hours that might eventually be valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Human activities such as thinking may appear as wasted time but they may produce results that are only evident later. As such, productivity is a more appropriate term to apply to humans or processes with highly variable results. The term efficiency is used for processes with highly predictable results such as how many watts of electricity it takes to move a vehicle a mile.
|Definition||The ratio of useful work to waste.||The amount produced for a unit of input.|
|Example||A solar panel with 21% conversion efficiency.||A nation that produces $44 dollars of GDP for every hour worked.|
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