Multitasking is just rapid attention switching. And that would be a useful skill, except it takes us a second or two to engage our focus. So the sum total of our attention is actually decreased as we multitask. Slicing your attention, in other words, is less like slicing potatoes, than it is like slicing plums, you always lose some of the juice.
-David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto
Executives can spend every waking hour and then some trying to find the right way to optimize their time and efficiency. Smart devices and the internet of things promise to bring us closer to real time in our business. Multitasking nirvana giving way to increased productivity.
How often do we think about how effective these devices are in business? Consumers love to spend money on tech and gadgets but when it comes to business sometimes our inclination to buy may not be serving us well. What gadget or gizmo is best? Which thing will make me more productive? How do I get that edge?
I remember when the first iPad came out and people were lined up around the malls to be a first time buyer. Organizational discussions began to flutter around who should get a device and what great things can be done with them. I remember walking into a large client who had purchased 20 iPads (fully stocked) and provided them to the IT team. I noticed many of the devices still in their boxes two weeks in. One of the IT staff told me that not a single IT team member was asked about the purchase, the IT director has just decided this was THE FUTURE! Twenty grand down the drain because the manager had failed to ask a single question (and failed to take ownership of company resources…a whole other problem).
Do these tablets, smart phones, trackers and now smart watches really help our business? Are we more productive? Do we magically become better at our job? Scary to think of the actual ROI on these things.
I would offer that sometimes gadgets can help us keep in touch, that they provide a way to be more asynchronous more often. Especially in a business world where real-time is becoming such an undervalued commodity some of these gadgets make life a little easier. For the most part though it seems like gadgetry is more of a time sink hole. Access to all these devices just ends up causing a scattered attention span…a lack of focus.
Organizations need to be strategic about their use of gadgets in the business environment. As with most IT activities having a plan and understanding the why is going to be paramount. Work with your IT team to understand the resources required to support the new gadget. Set specific expectations on why you need this gadget and why it will help your business.
Ultimately, have all we done is introduce more multitasking and less focus into our already precious time? As many of our clients fidget with glee as Apple looks to announce their great, new, not so innovative Apple Watch, I wonder how much of their and our resources will be spent trying to rationalize the business advantage of this wave of gadgets. How much time will be lost to capturing more time?