Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Multitasking is the Enemy

And yet, it is like an addiction.  Aided and abetted by our numerous devices, we all do it.

I am not going to try to convince you to go cold turkey and stop totally.  But I am going to point out what we all sacrifice when we multitask:  creativity and strategic thinking.

We know that multitasking robs us of focus.  None of us would be very happy if the doctor performing brain surgery on us was sending text messages in between steps of the procedure. 

What I am suggesting is that there are especially important times when we need to put away the iGadgets.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Why Multitasking Blocks Your Best Ideas, sites research with various conclusions, including:  Multitaskers may have to work harder than others to block out time for the daydreaming, exercise or mind-wandering that generate ‘aha moments.’”

Bill Duggan in his book Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement suggests that these “aha” moments require – among other things – “presence of mind.”  And a “clear mind” is key to this.

So what do we do about this?

If you and your team are serious about generating some creativity or doing some real strategic thinking, you need to block “unplugged time.”  It turns out that the classic strategic planning weekend at a retreat center in the woods is a really good idea.  But only if you leave your laptops, phones, and iPads in your sleeping room before you go to your meeting room.

I think maybe during the prep stages of strategic planning with clients I’ll start asking them what “grade” of a strategy they want to generate during our work together:  “A,” “B,” or “C?”  Then I can tell them the research shows that their chances of generating a more creative, successful strategy – an “A” strategy – are greatly increased if we can have everyone present, with their full “presence of mind” as well as their bodies. 

Not everyone can afford to go offsite to the fancy retreat centers.  But we can all collect the gadgets at the door.  Isn’t that a small price to pay for an “A” strategy that will make even more of a Mission Impact?

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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