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The World is Full of Noise

Let’s face it – almost all of us succumbed to this temptation: we could do the toughest, most important task or we could break all of them into pieces (“eating the elephant” as the management gurus say) and start chewing them. Or just give in to the boss’ latest request and answer his (sometimes lazy) easy to dig emails.
In this world of digital enrichment, our human brains are spectacularly assisted and enabled to do so the work. Simple exercise: close your eyes and try to imagine how long and how many people you would need to achieve what you now manage in a working day… without laptops, internet and corporate cloud software solutions. Hmmm… not too much, right?

Yet, people were founding trading empires in the Middle Ages (think East Indies company) or finishing incredible projects (think rail systems, mass production or hospital treatments) long before we had everything at our finger tips. So why today the corporations take months or years to restructure their simple and outdated business models? Why corporate analytics are so poor and offline? Why so many product failures when we have so much data at our fingertips? Why so many meetings and so little time for deep, meaningful work?
Don’t get me wrong – we are living unprecedented wealthy and healthy times. I read one that the average developed world citizen has access to a better life than any Roman emperor ever. Corporations are no doubts immensely wealthy and generate fantastic returns for the shareholders (probably why the law of diminishing returns kicks in more often and everybody struggles to find new revenue growth sources for their employers). So why so serious/gloomy?

For obvious reasons, the technology advance is good for mankind. Yet, it has gone too fast in the last decades – I.e. too fast for our primates brains to accommodate it. The fast rise of mobile computing seems in particular disruptive to our work patterns and styles. Let me explain why – research has showed again and again that our minds are still unable to focus on too many things at once, without loosing some of the quality. After all, our brains seem to have adapted to an external natural environment, rather than to the new-and-flashy internet office. As a result, doing deep complex work has become more difficult. The acceleration of the business cycles, plus the increasing pressure applied towards delivering short term results, does not help in this case – to say the least.

Therefore, A. lack of focus is the first factor that alters our new tech-supported productivity.

The second factor can be summarized as B. “the great distraction”. Admit it, temptation is always there to do something else than the core (but difficult) tasks:

B1. “Why reinvent the wheel?” – better go ask a colleague for a solution or – worse – if you have a high enough executive level, summon a meeting. Now don’t get me wrong, we should not cancel all of our business meetings and lock the doors to our open space offices. Still, the amount of non-topic meetings in corporations has increased over the past year, fueled by the technology easiness and the globalization of businesses.

B2. “What is new on the news?” – mass media has tighten its grip on the average brain so much, that it seems impossible to keep the pace (with the business trends, with the volatility, with the political instability… – with the most “important” trends (where “important” rarely equivalates “relevant”).

B3. … and (last but not least) the question “how can I do more on the same time?” Seems to have become an obsession. It is not only among the managers stuck in a growth mindset, who can only see the brute force in generating more income for their companies. This permanent question is enforced by an army of business consultants, who try to find ways to continuously increase the productivity – and who rarely factor in the law of decreasing returns for such initiatives. As such, most employees in global engagement surveys (sounds familiar?) start pointing to a lack of engagement – this being rather a motivational issue than a real “this is not possible” one.

The A and B factors combine themselves in an unfamilliar tech enabled paradigm – and is here to stay. The follow up on it should come from the top of the corporations – whose CEOs and executive boards should face the reality on the field. Only they can start integrating and humanizing the tech boost of the last decade – but are they aware and knowledgeable of it?

Feel free to comment here on or on linkedin on the topic of the “Global Tech Noise”. Do you think digitalization and mobile technologies are all good for the workforce or?…

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