Last time, we began discussing the rise of cell phone use while driving and how distraction is permeating our society. Experts in the growing field of Distraction Science are saying that we are a distraction-saturated society. And the new generation of neuroscience tells us that we distribute our attention but our attention is a finite resource. Digital phones and devices have outpaced our ability to keep up. We cannot merely “will ourselves” to have more attention.
Our brains today are operating in a perpetual competitive state. There is constant competition for our attention. With the onset of social media, so much of the data we encounter is interactive, enticing us to respond. And the data is often not passive, the data often comes with a time stamp on it. In his book, “A Deadly Wandering”, Pulitzer Prize Winning author and distraction researcher, Matt Richtel introduces the term “delay discounting” to describe the diminishing value that some media/data possesses (like texting). Richtel writes, “The current data shows the need to text now may simply reflect the need to engage in a behavior that only has value in the short term.” In the back of our minds we know some of the media/data that comes our way has a shelf-life to it – and we know we need to do something about it.
So if it’s true that talented men and women in our society today are performing while in a state of attentional overload, what does that mean to the organization? Isn’t this an opportunity for leadership? Today’s effective leader should seek to reduce the level of attentional overload, shouldn’t they? Today’s effective leader must also be a creator of clarity. So here’s a question; would you say people leave your office “more clear” than when they entered? To what degree is one of your leadership deliverables simply… clarity?
Interestingly, just a few weeks ago I spotted this clarity quality in one of my individual clients. Her office sometimes doubles as a clarity oasis where some on her Team go to get better footing. She has knowledge but is not a “know-it-all”. She is a good listener but is not passive. And she tends to have a nose for prioritizing the priorities. It may also be a bit behavioral as well, but her Team benefits from the clarity she creates as they perform in the midst of some disruptive change(s). She is a clarity creator.
As technology becomes smarter and more irresistible and our attentional limits are stretched to the full, can you see what an advantage it is for a leader to possess and utilize strategies to create clarity for those they lead and serve?
Richtel, Matt. A Deadly Wandering. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.
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