Wednesday, August 24, 2011

44% of Workplace Interruptions Are Self-Induced

I’ve spent all weekend reading and rereading an incredible new book, released just last Thursday.  It is entitled Now You See It – How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.

This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with transforming both the workplace and public education to better suit the world that has evolved so dramatically “since that fateful day in April 1993 when Mosaic 1.0, the first popular Web browser” unleashed the Internet for widespread use as the author notes. Capture

In full disclosure it is written by Cathy N. Davidson with whom I share a passion for Durham, our adopted hometown and whose work at Duke University, as co-founder of HASTAC and as an author are more reasons to believe Durham is indeed where great things happen.

This is one of those books where nearly every sentence reveals new research, information, insights and examples of why we urgently need to update both our workplaces and educational system.

Our current workplaces and the educational system meant to prepare us are both creatures of 19th century thinking.  The Internet has revolutionized the way we work and collaborate but the layout and rules of the workplace and the educational system largely remain stuck in the century before last.

Davidson humorously notes that Ichabod Crane, the schoolmaster in the classic 1820 book entitled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, would be baffled today by electricity, moving images, computers and cell phones but he’d be right at home and find little had changed in today’s classroom since the horse and buggy days of Sleepy Hollow.

If you’re like me, you’re guaranteed to finish this book enthusiastic and optimistic about the changes we need to make.  You’ll also come away with a fuller understanding of how our brain works including the fact that it is always “on” and that 44% of workplace interruptions originate and 80% of our neural energy is consumed not from external sources but from the distractions in our own minds.

The question isn’t whether we can and must multi-task but when have we ever mono-tasked?  Researchers noted in the book have confirmed that switching from one specific task to another uses less than 5% of the brain’s normal “at rest” energy.

I really can’t do the book justice in the framework of one post but there is no one book I’d recommend more to anyone wanting to see into the near and long-term future of how we’ll live and work and learn and unlearn and relearn in this century.

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