July 20th, 2016 · 19 comments
An Insightful Tale
I recently ate lunch with an executive who manages several teams at a large biomedical organization. He told me an interesting story.
Not long ago, he hired someone new to help tackle an important project. A logistical problem, however, delayed some paperwork processing for the new employee.
The result was that he spent his first week with no company email address.
In isolation, this is just a story of minor HR bungling. But what caught my attention was what happened as a result of this accidental experiment in email freedom: nothing bad.
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July 15th, 2016 · 19 comments
The Crawford Prescription
Matthew Crawford is one my favorite social critics.
(Damon Linker got it right when he quipped in The Week: “Reading [Crawford] is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one’s way through life.”)
Crawford’s 2009 book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, which I draw from in Deep Work, takes on the bewildering, dehumanizing mess that is the knowledge economy.
His 2015 follow-up, The World Beyond Your Head, takes on the natural next topic: the attention economy.
This book is complicated and ambitious. But there’s one thread in particular that I think is worth underscoring. Crawford notes that the real problem with the current distracted state of our culture is not the prevalence of new distracting technologies. These are simply a reaction to a more fundamental reality:
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July 7th, 2016 · 21 comments
The Nature of Our Business
When Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow began her multi-year study of consultants at the high-pressure Boston Consulting Group (BCG), she was quick to identify a defining behavior of her subjects: they were always connected. The pressure for them to check their email at all waking hours was intense — a point captured in the title of Perlow’s 2012 book on her research, Sleeping with Your Smartphone.
As Perlow summarized in an HBR article on the topic, the BCG consultants, like many knowledge workers, see this constant connectivity simply as “the nature of our business.”
To me, however, the important question lurking behind this topic is how did this behavior become so natural?
And it’s here that Perlow’s research on BCG uncovers an interesting answer…
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