Alec has a compelling post on the proliferation of technology and its impact on productivity (the cost of interruptions). It includes a link to an article worth reading on how New Technology Takes Mental Toll on Workers. I commented on Alec's post, the comment is also posted below.
He talks about a productivity paradox, but let’s take that one step further. Today’s information driven workplace and the attendant technology, is a fundamentally disempowering environment. How is it reasonable to expect any work of consequence to be accomplished in that environment?
Speaking from personal experience, my highest productivity is on airplanes — no internet, no cell phones, no text messages.
Alec, I agree with the notion that additional communication channels and pervasive connectivity give rise to significant interruption issues that impact productivity. A focus on attention management is relevant and deserves serious attention by IT strategists. So I am in total agreement on the need to better manage and triage our signal/noise challenges.
But on the other hand, what has been missing in the discussion, or so it seems, is a focus on the good side of this (it’s not all bad). If someone gets salient insight from me it that is necessary at the moment and it makes them more productive, then we are faced with a value decision. The problem is there is no good method in place to help parties make that value decision. Technology support is rudimentary so we often rely on social contracts between people (it’s ok for Jane Doe to bother me because she’s on my team but not John Doe because he’s in marketing and I know he takes forever to get to the point).
What is an interruption to me or to you could be valid, but the information or conversation that results might factor into the closing of a deal on the part of the requestor (or some other net-positive event). If electronic interruptions waste 28 billion man-hours per year in this country, at a cost of $588 billion as Basex points out, what would we think if we discovered that those interruptions resulted in 30 billion man-hours of productivity gain (on the part of those doing the interrupting) and garnered 600 billion in revenue (greater than the costs to those of us being pestered)?
I don’t have the answer. But we all seem to be going down this interruption-is-bad path when I believe the issue is more complex and involves a lot more than technology.