Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Productivity and Interest

I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and am now reading Punished by Rewards. And I have come across the most amazing things:

If people are In The Zone (flow) they can be 100 times more productive then someone who does not get into flow. All it really takes is for them not to be interrupted and distracted.
And from Punished by Rewards I learned that students can remember 30 times as much of the content of the lesson if they are interested in it then if they are not interested.

Experts say that children have short attention spans, generally that is true because most things are not very interesting, but knowing my own child and many others, I have seen amazing demonstrations of concentration and of memory. How many times have you been amazed by a teenaged girl who knows all the lyrics to all the Top 40 songs, or a teenaged boy who can disassemble a motorcycle and put it back together again in a week, or the 8 year old who can assemble a computer from parts. My own daughter who is 2 will spend lots of time and energy putting together a block tower that takes far longer then the 15 seconds of attention she is supposed to have.

It isn't that people have short attention spans but they are just trying to make the time go faster while something is going on that they don't find interesting. In the average business meeting there are a lot of people in there who aren't interested in what is going on, mainly because it has little to nothing to do with them. It is a tremendous waste of resources to have people stuck in a meeting when they could be doing something productive.

Haven't you ever gone in to work extra early or stayed really late, "so you could get some work done." We want to be productive, we even have a good idea of how to be productive, but standard work practices are such that we can't be productive. Having a signal to others that you are trying to get work done is important, so they understand that interruptions are bad for a time. One of those little "Will be back by" clock signs would be really good.

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