In A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation, I wrote about the accidental joy that resulted from poor Internet and cell phone connections. "Going dark" electronically was one of the biggest blessings of our "radical sabbatical."
This topic seems to be gaining more and more momentum, as people everywhere are waking up to the danger of non-stop connection. Just because technology can do something doesn't necessarily mean it should - at least - not all the time.
In strategy + business, a recent article by professor Henry Mintzberg and Dean Peter Todd considers the concept from the perspective of effective management. One of the most poignant excerpts from the article is:
Indeed, managers who are in touch only through their keyboard are out of touch with the vast world beyond it. They risk substituting breadth for depth. Recent research shows that we may have more connections today, but fewer relationships.
Here is the article, with some questions for you below:
The Offline Executive
A manager’s effectiveness depends not only on using e-mail and other electronic communication, but also on learning to shut it down.
Do you ever disconnect, even for just a few minutes? Think about the last time you used your “off button.” Was it at home over the weekend? On vacation? Or were you at the office? BlackBerrys, iPhones, Androids, iPads, and all their digital relatives are transforming our lives — for better and for worse. They are also changing the nature of how and when (and where) work gets done.
This new reality has profound implications for management, although studies on the topic have been surprisingly limited. We know that managers at all levels spend at least half their time collecting, receiving, and disseminating information. New technologies have extended the speed and breadth of this communication across vast distances. Yet studies going back a half century and more (long before e-mail) have made it clear that managing is characterized by high levels of variety, brevity, fragmentation, and, perhaps most significantly, interruption. Often to managers’ detriment, their attention is frequently diverted from one activity to another in their attempts to reconcile conflicting demands. The first of these studies, carried out by Sune Carlson and involving managing directors in Sweden in the late 1940s ― when the first computer was developed ― found that managers were inundated with reports. If they only knew what was to come.
Mobile computing seems to help managers cope with these distractions effectively. Smartphones, for instance, allow them to attend to the variety of demands on their time and leverage brief moments between interruptions to complete minor tasks. But new technologies can also have unintended negative and harassing effects; managers need to understand the dangers of an overreliance on electronic communication.
(Click here for the rest of the article).
Thank you to strategy + business for contacting me with this article.
Have you noticed an increase in electronic interruption in your life over the past ten years or so?
Do you notice an erosion of your creativity and clarity when inundated with electronic connections?
How do you control the "urgent" vs. the "important?"
Thanks for reading!