Paying Attention

What gets in the way of people paying attention? A typical answer is having too many things to do and not enough time, but there’s more to it than that.

A 2015 study by Microsoft revealed that people now have an average attention span of 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. One of the observations from this study was that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish!

Technology plays a big part in this to the point that even the way we read has changed. When people read on a screen, they tend to skim. And you know what happens: you skim, you miss things.

Example: I sent an email to 15 graduate students to set up phone appointments. The instructions were explicitly detailed to minimize going back and forth. One of the instructions was to provide me with their phone numbers. Not one person gave me a phone number, meaning that I had to ask a second time. In fact, it took between 4 and 5 email volleys on average before I got the phone numbers.

How is this possible? These people aren’t dumb, but clearly they weren’t paying attention. Why should it take so much effort to get a phone number? What happens when they’re in the work place and miss consequential information essential to their jobs?

I share this story because these 15 people are prototypes of the people we’re hiring today. No matter what a person’s intelligence, the era of being tethered to “smart” phones is morphing into serious attention deficit that may indeed be making people dumber.

Every year attention becomes an even more valuable currency. Observe how this impacts your workplace and what you can do to focus your employees’ attention when they’re on the job.

Have a great day!​​​​​​

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