McKinsey has just published a very interesting article on the impact of multitasking and always-on on executive's productivity and focus (http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Recovering_from_information_overload_2735) in their Quarterly (awesome source!!). For me this phenomenon does not only apply to executives that get distracted from making key decisions and forward thinking. It also applies to the standard knowledge worker that is supposed to contribute 24/7 as he/she's equipped with smart phones, tablet PCs, mobile e-mail and information access.
Providing the social media inspired workplace won't be a solution
Even though I believe that the current use of e-mail in combination with the always-on approach is completely out-of-date and should be replaced by other means of communication and information exchange I am sure that the social media inspired workplace with RSS and activity feeds, likes and comments won't be the key to the solution. In my eyes the key to relieving information workers from this multitasking and doing-things-inbetween culture lies within a change of collaboration culture and a slight decrease in speed.
Yes, we all have to slow down a notch.
Because the most sophisticated workplace and concept for distributing information and connecting talent only takes away efficiency and motivation if the culture doesn't support the proper use. Just tink about it: where's the point in moving updates and one-to-many communication from e-mail to RSS feeds if the sender keeps expecting response and action within a 60 min time frame? Why would we share know-how and come together in virtual communities if it's considered to be dead and uninteresting because its followers don't share and interact in real time?
The more I think about it – and the past 8 weeks did provide me with enough time for thinking and digesting my past experience in the field of enterprise 2.0 – the more I come to the conclusion that one pillar of the cultural change must be: quality before quantity. Do less and do the things you do with excellence.
Now is the time to make excellence the new benchmark
For too many years throughput and "efficiency" in closing tasks (just getting sh** done) has led to a "ticked off – job done" culture. As soon as the response was out of the mailbox there was no point in further thinking about it. Of course thinking too much about it in the first place wasn't really part of the job either since sender or recipient did expect feedback/input in digital-age style: immediate.
Let's change the way we all work together, how we contribute and how we communicate. Do it slowly and so that everyone, not just the digital natives and nerds, can adapt to it. And let's introduce a culture where "consuming information when it's the right time" is really ment that way. Not in the sense of "when it's the right time for the sender" but more in a sense of "when it's the right time to concentrate on it, read it, digest it and contribute real add value".