Digistraction & Connection – December 2021
“Digistraction is the result of multiple digital media and devices colonising our attention.”
If someone stole your property, wouldn’t you complain?
Of course you would. So why do we allow digital devices and platforms to steal our time and attention without challenge?
It’s not even without challenge. They do it by invitation and with our consent and compliance.
So, why should we care about Digistraction? Because our propensity for consumption of information, data and media is having a detrimental effect on our health, relationships and performance at work.
“Continuous partial attention is an always on, anytime, anyplace anywhere behaviour that creates an artificial sense of crisis.”
Linda Stone, Microsoft
The competition for our attention is heavily skewed away from us as users and the attention economy spends all its time getting us to care about things we didn’t want to care about. The temptations are ever-present, especially if we can’t’ let go of the blue light from our devices long before bedtime. It affects our sleep, other non-work activities (leisure, cooking, housework, socialising & fitness) and work itself. It can range from so-called clickbait to far more intrusive and repetitive distractions that take us and our minds away from what we planned or hoped to do.
Are we doomed, or can we do anything about it? Luckily, all is not lost but we need to face up to it and stop pretending we are unaffected. We should also stop kidding ourselves that we can multitask successfully and have adapted to a new way of managing our attention.
A checklist could include:
- Turn off all notifications
- Delete as many apps as you can
- Turn your colour palette to greyscale
- Distance yourself from your devices – especially at night
- Manage your life by yourself and don’t rely on hardware or software to do it
Try this for a few weeks and see what difference it makes. Hopefully, at least, you will sleep better and find you can concentrate for longer periods. Remember, it’s a lopsided contest and each time we open a social media app, there are 1,000 people on the other side of the screen paid to keep us there.
If you want to take it further, or introduce the concept to your team, talk to us about it and let us share even more secrets of how to avoid digistraction.
Have you lost your connection?
Since the initial lockdown, we have all found work hugely different and no one is finding it easier, even if we enjoy the short commute!
One of the main missing features has been the loss of connection between managers and their teams and within teams themselves now that people meet so rarely. Hybrid working in whatever form may be only part of the answer, given the fragmented nature of remote and workplace arrangements.
Of course, connection may not be entirely lost. It may be just dormant and awaiting a spark to re-ignite it. Many of the factors that improve cohesion and togetherness at work can still be there. They may only need a wakeup call.
Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code” talks about highly successful teams and organisations using a set of “belonging cues.” These are ways that people who work together send messages to each other that affirm “you are safe here.”
The basic qualities are:
- Energy – they invest in the exchange that is occurring
- Individualisation – they treat the person as unique and valued
- Future orientation – they signal the relationship will continue
Taken together, they combine to create a quality of communication that is soft, yet rich and powerful.
These are quite common features of high-performing teams that Coyle has studied in a variety of situations, including: creative industries, media, military, professional sports, manufacturing, hospitality & retail.
In such teams, belonging cues contribute to success in five measurable ways:
- Everyone in the group talks & listens in equal measure, keeping contributions short
- Members maintain high levels of eye contact and their conversations and gestures are energetic
- Members communicate directly with one another, not just with the team leader
- Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team
- Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back to share with the others
These factors ignore every individual skill and attribute we usually associate with high-performing groups and replace them with behaviours we would normally consider as quite primitive and lacking in sophistication. And yet, the signalling that certain primates engage in with each other can be harnessed to achieve extraordinary performance and success in human teams.
Researchers like Sandy Pentland also endorse this stating that simply hearing something doesn’t result in changes in behaviour. Normally we think that words matter, and that group performance correlates with its members’ verbal intelligence and their ability to construct and communicate complex ideas. But that assumption is wrong.
Words are noise and group performance depends on behaviour that communicates one powerful overarching idea: We are safe and connected.
Translating these concepts and the resulting behavioural change into a digital or hybrid workplace is challenging but possible. It takes trust and commitment as well as skill. If you’d like to explore these ideas with us to help support your workforce as they work through the changes in the world of work, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to talk with you.