One theme of #PINK12 - focus your mind and pay attention
There doesn’t appear (yet) to be a musical motif for the next Pink Elephant IT Service Management conference in 2012. I was looking forward to a Motorhead-based conf… well perhaps not. But there is quite a bit of information already posted:
Nicholas Carr will be one keynote speaker. His presentation title is “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”. I remember how one of his early posts on this topic resonated with me I called it “Google rots your brains”. I’ve gone from someone who could read a book in an armchair for a whole day, to someone with the attention span of a 12-year-old and the memory of a 90-year-old, and it is all the internet’s fault. I used to think Carr was a bit too apocalyptic but I’m coming round to share his concern: “The My Generation generation faces the Me Generation: a world populated by Digital Natives, and the prospect of their digital degeneration”.
Very closely aligned with Carr’s topic is a keynote by Dr. Joanne Cantor, University of Wisconsin–Madison, speaking on “Conquer CyberOverload: Strategies for Sanity and Success”. She asks “Do you own your gadgets? Or, do your gadgets own you?” Although our digital devices—computers, smartphones, ipods, ipads, and such—are great tools, they often interfere with our ability to be creative and get things done. Hear more of Dr Cantor’s views in this news article “Going Under”.
I love the word “sanity” in her title. For decades we’ve been led to believe a new generation can multitask, concentrating on three things at once. Apparently this new technology changes the fundamentals. The rules are different now - where have we heard that before? It’s rubbish, as I am sure Dr. Cantor is going to tell us. Gen X, Y and Z (and now most of the Boomers who have adopted their bad habits): turn the radio off in the Service Desk area, get the podphones out of your ears, get off FaceBook, put your phone down, shut your laptop and pay attention! I don’t care what the accepted wisdom is, YOU CAN’T MULTITASK AND STILL BE AS PRODUCTIVE AS WHEN YOU GIVE YOUR FULL ATTENTION. Personally I think multitasking is a polite name for rudeness, lack of self-discipline and intellectual laziness.
I still remember in amazement how I had to give one 20-ish employee a written warning before he would desist from chatting online with his girlfriend while simultaneously taking to users on the service desk helpline. Anyone hardy enough to have finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will recall that the fastidious Phaedrus advised that if you walk into a motorcycle workshop and the radio is playing, it is a bad sign. “You can’t really think hard about what you are doing and listen to the radio at the same time… They were involved in it but not in such a way as to care” (p25-26 of my worn paperback copy). ZATAOMM really is one of the most important books for the 21st Century, even if it was written in the 20th. Good luck reading it though - it took me three attempts.
Not that I object to social media and personal web-browsing at work. As Clay Shirkey said in a McKinsey interview “Would you offer your 25-year-olds the following bargain: no more Facebook at work, and in return for which, I won’t call you after 6 PM or on weekends or ask you to watch e-mail.” The problem is the attempts at multitasking: the open laptop, the under-the-table-edge texting… And the most pernicious place for this is in meetings. In a group meeting (or training course) it’s contemptuous. In a one-on-one its unforgivable. I don’t even buy the idea of making notes on a laptop: I don’t believe most people can type without giving the act of typing a higher level of attention than handwriting. Write your electronic notes later. And researching something on the Web, even something related to the meeting, is as rude as talking to your neighbour. To me, all these things send a message: “I’m not listening with my full attention because the things I do are at least as important as what you are saying. What you are saying isn’t important enough to concentrate on it”.
The theme of #PINK12 is “Knowledge Translated Into Results”. Clearly one message is going to be that you won’t translate much unless you give the knowledge your full attention.