Monday, December 19, 2011

Does your workplace fight multitasking with "attention blindness"?

"People using Facebook and social media at work worry that they're wasting time but studies have shown they're actually more productive....boredom is the most unproductive state we as people face." - Cathy Davidson

Davidson is author of Now You See It, How the Brain Science of Attention will Transform the way we Live, Work, and Learn and served from 1998 until 2006 as the first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, where she worked with faculty to help create many programs, including the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the program in Information Science + Information Studies (ISIS). She is the co-founder of Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, HASTAC ("haystack"), a network of innovators dedicated to new forms of learning for the digital age. She is also co-director of the $2 million annual HASTAC/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In this Harvard Business Review HBR IdeaCast, Davidson discusses "The Myth of Monotasking" or the idea that multitasking and social media technology are destroying our brains. She is against the idea of techno-determination or that technology will make you either smart or dumb. Her work is in part about how the brain works and how to make the tools of our age work for us.

When interviewer Sara Green relates that current Harvard students won't read a full length book, Davidson offers results of a study indicating that 15 year olds today read more books per year than their parents did or do today. Kids today are reading books written for the digital age and publishers have figured this out. Adults may think young adult literature is too fast paced and ambiguous but young people are just reading in a different way and the classics really are boring to them.

For 150 years, the modern, industrial form of work has been a production line system with linear processes and quotas that has pervaded our workplaces and schools. Davidson's podcast and writings are very thought provoking and suggest that workplace productivity today may be more like "working on a farm than on an assembly line".

1 comment: