The Activity Illusion
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The Activity Illusion

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Business psychologists Rob Archer and Ian Price shows the dangers of too much activity on both performance and mental health. They suggest reasons why we struggle with too much information, and what ...

Business psychologists Rob Archer and Ian Price shows the dangers of too much activity on both performance and mental health. They suggest reasons why we struggle with too much information, and what we can do to adapt more effectively.

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  • Could use ‘proactive’ instead
  • Could use ‘proactive’ instead
  • Version 2 Think we might want to rephrase the first sentence – how about: We are two business psychologists working with organisations on reducing their levels of activity and increasing their organisational effectiveness.
  • 71% of white-collar workers feel stressed about that and 60% feel overwhelmed . (The Institute of the Future, Menlo Park). People who regularly juggle several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memories, or switch from one task to another as well as those who prefer to focus on one thing at a time. Heavy media multitaskers are paying a big price . Stanford Report, 8/24/2009, Study by Clifford Nass, Eyal Ophir & Anthony Wagner
  • 71% of white-collar workers feel stressed about that and 60% feel overwhelmed . (The Institute of the Future, Menlo Park). People who regularly juggle several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memories, or switch from one task to another as well as those who prefer to focus on one thing at a time. Heavy media multitaskers are paying a big price . Stanford Report, 8/24/2009, Study by Clifford Nass, Eyal Ophir & Anthony Wagner
  • I think get rid of the citations
  • Well done Frederick!
  • Quote is just too long I think... Anything to make this point punchier?
  • Need a better photo...
  • What is the impact of being compulsive message checking and the stimulation of our dopamine system?
  • Have changed “But...” to “..and” since I think this is additive to – and runs on from previous slide [like the flow now, yes!]
  • Gilbert & Killingsworth study – distraction leads to unhappiness. Stronger?
  • Gilbert & Killingsworth study – distraction leads to unhappiness. Stronger?
  • Go with one point of contact??

The Activity Illusion Presentation Transcript

  • 1. The Activity Illusion Why doing more is suddenly getting us less
  • 2. “ It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”.
  • 3. Is this you? Always on the go - 24/7 Multitasker extraordinaire Always connected Always available
  • 4. Always on the go - 24/7 Multitasker extraordinaire Always connected Always available Is this you?
  • 5. What about your organisation?
  • 6. We work with organisations to help them understand the cognitive effects of too much information, reduce their levels of activity and increase their organisational effectiveness . We are two business psychologists who believe that the information age is posing unique challenges to the way we work.
  • 7. Here’s a thought: The amount of information we process daily has doubled in the past 20 years
  • 8. We think this is driving an obsession with activity which is harming our effectiveness at work in 4 ways.
  • 9. % of an average company’s payroll is diminished by ineffective use of email University of Toronto, 2004 12% 1: Productivity
  • 10. University of Toronto, 2004 1: Productivity ...we’re not talking about personal email or internet use here. This is ineffective use of work email.
  • 11. Add the impact of interruptions and the figure is closer to 20% . Fact: It takes us 64 seconds to refocus after an interruption. Oh and 41% of the time, we never return.
  • 12. 2: Cognitive Performance 20 th C Productivity
  • 13. The huge advances in 20 th century productivity all started with this chap , 2: Cognitive Performance 20 th C Productivity Frederick Taylor
  • 14. Taylor invented scientific management , which was all about doing more activity more efficiently and more quickly... This was excellent for tasks such as carrying pig-iron
  • 15. BUT... Big but
  • 16. This did not apply to tasks of cognitive complexity ... “ The man who is physically able to handle pig iron and is sufficiently stupid to choose this for his occupation is rarely able to comprehend the science of handling pig iron.”
  • 17. And few of us are asked to lug pig iron about the office any more.
  • 18. knowledge management business intelligence Data analysis ...in other words, tasks of cognitive complexity. Increasingly our jobs involve: Creative problem solving
  • 19. Shifting pig-iron = cognitive complexity Knowledge work = cognitive complexity
  • 20. Shifting pig-iron = cognitive complexity More is ALWAYS better Knowledge work = cognitive complexity ...More is OFTEN worse!
  • 21. “ Participants who completed tasks in parallel took 30% longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks in sequence.” (McKinsey Quarterly, Jan 2011) Taylorism doesn’t work for the 21 st century world of information overload .
  • 22. Meet Phineas Gage... 3: Leadership
  • 23. Meet Phineas Gage... ... Phineas was a 19 th century US railroad worker who, after an explosion , ended up with a 4ft metal rod lodged through his skull .
  • 24. Incredibly, Gage survived. But alas his prefrontal cortex was damaged and he was never the same again....
  • 25. “ He is fitful , irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity ... Capricious and vacillating , devising many plans of future operation , which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned ...” Dr Harlow, Gage’s Physician.
  • 26. Just like today’s CEO. “ He is fitful , irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity ... Capricious and vacillating , devising many plans of future operation , which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned ...”
  • 27. What - information overload damages our brains? In a way, yes! The human mind finds new information difficult to ignore. For example, new e-mails tend to stimulate our dopamine (reward) systems so we can become quite obsessive about checking them. But....
  • 28. What - information overload damages our brains? Russell Poldrack, Neuroscientist, University of Texas “ Too much dopamine or noradrenaline and our prefrontal cortex function goes south, leaving us disorganised, forgetful and unable to focus.” In a way, yes! The human mind finds new information difficult to ignore. For example, new e-mails tend to stimulate our dopamine (reward) systems so we can become quite obsessive about checking them. But....
  • 29. One idea: People with smartphones spend 250% longer checking for messages outside working hours than those without smartphones* *I.Price MSc Research Project, “Email is Ruining My Life” 2010 Are we simply “too busy” to lead? Leaders tell us they don’t get the chance to lead any more. Why?
  • 30. Being too busy means we have no time for creative thinking...
  • 31. Or strategic thinking ...
  • 32. Or strategic thinking ... (Not even in the car...).
  • 33. So the art of leadership...
  • 34. So the art of leadership... ....is often reduced to platitudes
  • 35. But carrots and sticks only improve performance for mechanical tasks.... Motivation is reduced to carrots and sticks.
  • 36. But carrots and sticks only improve performance for mechanical tasks.... ...Where even rudimentary cognitive skill is required larger rewards lead to poorer performance. Motivation is reduced to carrots and sticks.
  • 37. “ .. the inability to focus that is driven by the richness of our environment... bears resemblance to the inattention that marks ADHD.” Dr Russell Poldrack, Neuroscientist, University of Texas 4. Being too busy damages mental health
  • 38. “ .. People spend 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they're doing. This mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.” Professor Dan Gilbert, Psychologist, Harvard University 4. Being too busy damages mental health
  • 39. So, what can we do? Isn’t this just the way things are?
  • 40. Not necessarily.
  • 41. Not necessarily. After all, Taylorism was about adapting the way we work to the changing environment of the 20 th century.
  • 42. Not necessarily. We believe we need to adapt again to change the way we work in the 21 st century. After all, Taylorism was about adapting the way we work to the changing environment of the 20 th century.
  • 43. Add the impact of interruptions and the figure is closer to 20%* It takes us 64 seconds to return to what we were doing after an interruption... ...41% of the time, we never return. By learning skills to help the mind cope with too much information, we can dramatically boost productivity in real terms... ...and improve mental health and wellbeing.
  • 44. Allow us to introduce our Work Effectiveness Programme and some of its outcomes:
    • a reduction in frenetic but ineffective activity
    • mastery of communications technology e.g. email
    • heightened ability to focus for optimal effectiveness
    • improved work-life balance and resilience
    • heightened motivation and commitment
  • 45. We use the latest proven techniques to drive behavioural change... x ... so that learning actually gets implemented.
  • 46. Who benefits from our Effectiveness Programme?
    • Leadership teams
    • Sales teams
    • Customer service teams
    • Virtual teams
    • Project teams
  • 47. About Us... [email_address] Tel: 07919 600846 [email_address] Tel: 07904 956965 Ian Price is an organisational behaviour specialist and author of The Activity Illusion . Formerly a corporate man, Ian has switched careers and recently completed his MSc in Occupational Psychology at Birkbeck College. Rob Archer is an organisational psychologist specialising in engagement, resilience and behavioural change. Formerly a management consultant, Rob retrained as an Occupational Psychologist at the University of London.