A fortnightly newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Tuesday, 1 February 2005
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your weekly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, idea innovation or invention please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
DON'T MULTITASK, MULTITHINK INSTEAD
I expect you are familiar with multitasking: the ability to perform more than one task simultaneously. Managers who like to overwork their employees love multitasking. They assume that if their employees are performing three tasks simultaneously, they'll work three times as fast.
The logic in that assumption is so thoroughly flawed, it is hard to believe that intelligent managers accept it without question. Perhaps they are too desperate to improve employee productivity.
Logic suggests two points:
1. No one can actually perform several tasks simultaneously. Rather they quickly switch from one task to the other. Hence, all things being equal, multitasking should be no faster than monotasking (that's my own word, incidentally).
2. Bearing in mind point 1, it would seem that a person would require a certain amount of time to switch from one task to the other. Even if that time is tiny, it would add up after numerous switches from task to task. This would suggest that multitasking is actually slower than monotasking.
As it turns out an even more reputable source than me confirms the above two points. In a paper published by the American Psychological Association: “Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching”, authors Joshua S. Rubinstein, David E. Meyer and Jeffrey E. Evans confirm what logic tells us. You can download the paper as a PDF at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xhp274763.pdf or read the press release at www.apa.org/releases/multitasking.html.
Although multitasking turns out to be counter-productive, multithinking (another word of mine!) is a different matter all together. Multithinking is thinking about completely different issues or tasks at the same time.
Whether you multitask or not, you almost certainly have numerous tasks awaiting your attention at any given time. And it is inevitable that your mind occasionally turns to one task while you are working on another. A multitasker would be inclined to switch tasks at this point. I recommend you stick to the task at hand, but keep a notebook – or at least some paper – nearby when performing any tasks. (Indeed, if you've been reading Report 103 for any length of time, you will know that I recommend having a notebook with you all the time). When the mind turns from the task at hand to another task, simply note down your thoughts in the notebook. Then return to the task at hand.
This simple action does several things at once. Firstly, It allows you to maintain your focus on the task at hand. By making a note of your thought, you are clearing your mind of the distracting idea. This can only improve your focus on the task at hand.
Secondly, when the action of performing task A inspires an idea relevant to task B, it is very often the case that the idea is a creative one that would not have come to mind had we been focusing on task B. In other words, multithinking often inspires creative ideas.
Thirdly, if performing task A provides inspirations for task B, you may come across synergies between the two tasks; synergies which reduce your overall workload – and actually improve your productivity. Such synergies are best discovered through multithinking. Indeed, when ideas come to mind. Do not simply write them down. Try to draw links between your ideas for task B and task A.
Frankly, one of the best places to multithink is during long, crowded meetings. During many such meetings, I have filled pages of my notebook on ideas relevant to other tasks – and have still followed the flow of the meeting.
On the other hand, even as I write this, I have one notebook on my desk and another electronic one open on my computer – and I am slowly filling them both up.
So remember. If you want to be more creatively productive. Don't multitask. Multithink!
FREE IDEAS CAMPAIGN VIRTUAL SOFTWARE
We've developed a free demonstration version of Jenni IdeasCampaign virtual software (based on our Jenni Idea Management tool). It allows you to set up an IdeasCampaign: capture ideas from participants and evaluate those ideas. It allows participants to submit ideas, browse ideas and build on other participants' ideas.
The free demonstration version lacks a number of features of a full IdeasCampaign. In particular, the free version is limited to 50 ideas from 20 participants. It is also limited to two weeks duration. However, it is a good way to try out an IdeasCampaign and get a feel for what a comprehensive idea management tool could do for you.
In case you are not familiar with the terms: an ideas campaign is a single campaign designed to generate ideas on a particular issue or problem. It is rather like a long, drawn out, collaborative brainstorming session. An ideas campaign is a great way to focus people's minds on solving a specific problem. Ideas campaigns can also be an effective marketing tool which not only allows you to solicit ideas from your customers, but also allows you to collect data on your most valuable customers: the ones who care enough about your products and services to offer their advice on how to improve them.
An idea management tool, at least in the case of our tool, is about capturing ideas on an on-going basis. Jenni Idea Management, for instance, offers dynamic category management which allows you to set up categories on demand. Thus you can create permanent categories, such as “Operations” for which ideas may constantly be submitted, and short term categories designed to motivate people to focus on an issue and submit a large number of ideas over a short period of time.
You can set up and try out an ideas campaign at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/campaign/. You can learn more about our idea management services and Jenni virtual software at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/ and you can read specifically about ideas campaigns at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/ideascampaign.php.
One final note. The free test demo is still in Beta. In other words, although we have tested it internally, there may still be a bug or two in the system. Since our virtual software resides on our server and you access it via a web browser, there is no threat to your computers or network. However, it is possible that one or two features might not work as you expect them to. If you come across any bugs, please let us know.
THE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE GAME
Here's an interesting and informative exercise – perfect for a long train or aeroplane ride: the fundamental change game. Take out a sheet of paper – or your laptop if you prefer – and write down the 10 most fundamental changes you could make to your business without actually destroying it. These might include completely changing your product line, moving from selling a product to selling a service, replacing management, outsourcing everything, moving the headquarters to another country and so on.
Once you have completed this step, go through each of the fundamental changes and give yourself a good argument as to why you should NOT make that change. The argument must be objective and convincing. Think about it carefully.
The chances are you will be able to come up with good arguments for at least eight or nine of the fundamental changes. Now look at the remaining fundamental change or two. These are changes that could radically alter your business. They are risky of course. Fundamental change always is.
But, you should take those ideas further. Evaluate them carefully. Develop business cases for them. Bring in someone from outside your organisation – someone not subject to your corporate baggage - to review the fundamental changes.
Even if the fundamental changes prove too radical or too costly to implement, they should inspire creative thinking about the most basic aspects of your organisation. And that is no bad thing either.
INNOVATION MEETING IN BELGIUM?
Attention innovation and creativity professionals in Belgium. I am trying to create an informal innovation network that would meet once a month over a drink in Brussels or nearby. The aim is networking, talking shop and providing mutual support. If you are interested, please let me know..
If you are interested in organising something similar in your area, let me know and I would be happy to promote it here.
Report 103 is a complimentary weekly electronic newsletter from Bwiti bvba of Belgium (a jpb.com company: http://www.creativejeffrey.com). Archives and subscription information can be found at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/
Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner. And
is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
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