A fully sighted company anticipates and “sees” the obvious and the not-so-obvious events, dynamics, and influences that are critical to success versus ignoring it. According to author Margaret Heffernan who wrote Willfull Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril says such blindness happens when there are things we should know, could know, but somehow manage not to know.
Heffernan, who was born in Texas, but grew up in the Netherlands spoke at a Vancouver conference recently. I was deeply impressed with her work, which reminds me a great deal of the themes I also find relevant – such as how to avoid drinking the Kool-Aid of group thinking.
One of Heffernan’s pet peeves is multi-tasking. Getting to the point, the brain doesn’t do it, as I have lectured for years. It’s a complete myth according to all research. It switches back and forth, and cannot parallel process. In other words, as I often tell my clients you cannot do two right-brained activities at once, such as complete taxes and practice a speech. Yet, most employees are under the delusion they can. The idea, she said, that many software companies consider it heroic to work all night is nonsense. “After 40 hours of work a week, every study shows a deep degradation of productivity and thinking skills.”
Thus, one of the first steps toward building a fully-sighted organization is to design one where people work within sync and reason to bodily biorhythms. When my son was a child with a serious illness, I remember many a midnight trip to the emergency room where residents worked all nighters day after day-and made lousy decisions affecting his and others lives. Hospitals are among the worst violaters , but they are not the only ones. Most of us our guilty on some level.
As leaders of companies, we must work with our employees, especially the good ones, to ensure this doesn’t happen. This proverbial buck doesn’t stop with us. It starts with us: I know I can have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends. What this new research really means is that we have to be judicious ourselves to use every minute of our days wisely and not waste time on random activities. Nor let others waste our time.
So here’s my new game plan: This week I plan to do one thing at a time, versus three things at once. I’m going to keep phone conversations and meetings brief and to the point. I’m going to delete emails with a vengeance-and not be distracted by the ones that rarely offer value. I’m going to plan brain rest breaks. I’m going to plan specific time – say 30 minutes a day verus 3 hours to review email-one time a day. Finally, I’m going to encourage my staff to do exactly the same.
I’ll let you know where I am at the end of the week. I know it won’t be easy.