A Scotsman, an Englishman, and an American all walk into a bar. The Scotsman scrolls through Slack messages. The Englishman is furiously thumbing email and the American is watching YouTube.
Not a funny joke.
During a dinner out several nights ago 3 guys walked into the restaurant and sat at the table directly across from me. I watched curiously as they proceeded to eat an entire meal without speaking more than 4 or 5 words to each other.
Unfortunately, this behavior isn't regulated to private social media, millennials, or after-hours. Our ability to successfully accomplish work is being stagnated by distraction. It's not just social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In the not so distant past, an employee typically had 3 to 5 channels to receive communications (email, phone, company intranet, etc.). Contrast with employees today whom are dealing with over 50 information channels. All of these providing feedback, messages, and action items. How could we not be distracted!
As a technologist, I want to place both the blame and the answer in technology. But while the tech has provided opportunity, the real problem has risen from our corporate culture and social norms. We must create corporate cultures and norms which limit distraction but increase collaboration. No, this is not an oxymoron.
Our usual approach has been to simply add another tool. Email became busy, let's add IM. IM didn't provide a good mobile experience add text. None of these worked with document sharing so let's add Box.
We can't continue to add tools. We must build workflows of connected applications operating seamlessly together to accomplish real work.
Look for more blog posts on this subject but here are 5 things to start noodling today:
1. Have a plan. Clearly define at an organizational level how and when tools are used. Don't let ambiguity and personal preferences cause chaos
2. Minimize the channels in which employees receive and send information. I'm serious, stop adding tools for niche purposes that don't fit within "the plan"
3. Enforce the plan (use moderators but enable the community)
4. Increment the change, start by shutting channels off
5. Update the plan. As processes, people, and technology changes the plan should be continually updated