In 2007, desk workers switched their attention every 3 minutes. Really? How did they ever get anything accomplished? But wait until you read this:
In 2017, they switched their attention every 45 seconds – every 45 seconds!
All. Day. Long.
I can’t even wrap my head around that – although come to think of it I feel quite distracted as I write this blog while messages ping and internet searches lead me astray. I am also aware that I have a lot of ideas right in the middle of my morning meditation, a practice which some find boring. And perhaps it is. But here’s the thing: Boredom breeds genius!
These are some of the many insights you’ll get from this great TED talk: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas. If you have 20 minutes, tune in. It’s worth it.
What to expect from the resource
I’ll tell you upfront: This is a high energy TED talk. Manoush Zomorodi used to be a high powered journalist, who went straight into war zones, was immediately on site after the Concorde crashed, and when the Serbian revolution started.
That is until she had a baby that forced her to discover the world of … boredom.
What goes on in our brains when we get bored? And what when we don’t?
Being bored out of her mind for months while pushing a stroller with a crying baby around sparked an epiphany which led her to a quest:
What goes on in our brains when we get bored?
And what happens when we never get bored at all, because we literally take our phones to the bathroom, because we finish up some work emails while “chilling” on the couch, or because we never allow ourselves a moment of drifting between waking up and falling asleep?
What we love about it
Discovering the gift of boredom has never been so un-boring! You’ll learn about project BORED AND BRILLIANT: The Lost Art of Spacing Out. You’ll follow the cognitive and emotional experience of random listeners of a radio show who took on the challenge of regulating their phone usage.
Zomorodi’s talk is packed with snippets from recordings of neuroscientists who explain what happens in the brain when we are constantly ON or when we multitask and keep shifting our attention between things.
The short answer: It’s not pretty. And it’s not in the least creative or productive.
Why it matters to leadership in organisations
The average person checks their email 74 times a day. A coachee of mine confessed that he is afraid to be seen as not working, and immediately responds to his boss’ every message or phone call, even if he and the projects would be better off focusing on advancing a task. He is exhausted!
If he thinks he has to respond to every request in real time, it’s no wonder that, like the average person, he switches tasks on the computer a whooping 566 times a day!
Attention residue kills productivity and creativity
This is a problem for leaders who want to lead productive teams, let alone for leaders who care about their team member’s well being. We’ve written about the calamity of attention residue before, and this TED talk brings home what that means for our productivity, for our creativity, and for our mental health.
So what can a leader do?
As a leader you can remedy the brain drain by one simple measure: Creating space for focused work, and creating space for being unfocused.
Say what, unfocused?
Yes, because when we make time for being unfocused, our brain goes into default mode and starts to wander.
In that default mode, our neurons fire and wire together like crazy.
- We connect disparate ideas.
- We solve nagging problems.
- We start seeing possibilities, set goals and plan steps towards them.
To solve the many challenges of today’s workplaces, we could use some of these neurons firing.
That’s why it’s so important to create uninterrupted times to focus, or to just drift, at the workplace. Boredom breeds genius!