Saturday, September 23rd, 2017


How to back myself into and out of this  discussion?

First of all I don’t hear many CEO’s or top executives talking about the brains OF their company. Here’s something they do talk about–the horrible feeling that they are skimming in their work given time and result demands that keep them moving rather than thinking. They do not enjoy a sense of doing their best work or having mastery of any aspect. It ccmes from the awful new normal of “more, better, faster”. Gag. I always wanted to say “less, slower and plenty good enough” to counteact the frantic sense of always being behind and doing sloppy work.

So now, the multi-tasking that grew out of this tap dance for Wall Street is being proved bad for the brain and bad for the business.  Earl Miller a MIT neuroscientist says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost. He argues that multi-tasking makes it more difficult to organize thoughts and filter out irrelevant information and that it reduces the efficiency and quality of our work.The ability to spend time in concentration without distraction is becoming shorter. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella believes that an important trait for success with be human attention.

Of course books are popping up on this topic. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. He describes deep works as work  “performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push[es] your cognitive capacities to the limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. Shallow work is more logistical and repetitive.

And Daniel Goleman talks about the same thing in Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence He says that attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. Goleman argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to contend with, let alone thrive in, a complex world.

The most serious part about what is erroneously called multitasking is the Internet and email addiction that creates a false sense of productivity. It creates a kind of addiction to tiny irrelevant tasks that still give a sense of accomplishment that can even chemically self reinforce the behavior. You can get a lot done that doesn’t matter.

OK, now to back out of this discussion.

Something bothers me about what all the experts have said. I wonder if they’ve worked inside a large company or watched any mother who works at home. CEO’s do a very different kind of multi-tasking that I would call juggling. They keep about five priorities alive in their brain all the time. They shift focus from one to the other for ‘deeper’ work. And they too have to do the so called shallow thinking of everything from calendar logistics to preparing for one thing while doing another.

So what?

—I think I come down on the side for healty multi-tasking

—I’m not sure that deep has to be slow or isolated

—I am sure that creative thinking needs to have moments of distraction and play that allow the brain to quit focusing too hard and too long.

—I wonder if deep work imply thinkers and shallow work imply doers. Is that a bias we want to have in our companies? Is deep ‘smart’ and shallow ‘not so much’?

—I do know that projects and initiatives in companies allow for a huge amount of concentrated time while the rest of the organization multi-tasks on.

—I don’t ever really multi-task. I alternate task and it keeps me fresh with whatever I’m doing. I will often write for 60 minutes, then do household tasks for 60 minutes, write again for 60 minutes and then switch to physical exercise of some kind.

—Deep thinking often goes deeper when it doesn’t have a specific goal

—Deep thinking follows from a curiosity given full reign

—I don’t want deep to be seen as superiour to shallow

There is something that bothers me about this current trend about multi-tasking and focus and I’m not sure what it is. How about you?












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