The Tyranny of Distraction

From the Schumpeter column in last week’s Economist (“Too Much Information”), I took three interesting findings.

Discussing the challenge of data overload, the columnist mentions:

  • Research by Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School which finds that focus and creativity are connected: people are more likely to be creative if they can focus on something, uninterrupted for some time. 
  • David Meyer of University of Michigan has shown that completing certain tasks in parallel takes much longer and generates more errors than completing those tasks in sequence.
  • Derek Dean and Caroline Webb of McKinsey promote three principles:
    • Focus (find time to focus)
    • Filter out noise and
    • Forget about work when you can.

All of these run against the grain of how modern life, especially for information workers, runs.  If we want to be effective, we each must carve out our Monte Baldo 117prioritise, to preserve “mountain time” and personal space.

Which, of course, is what people like Nicholas Bate regularly encourage us to do.


About Andrew Munro

An independent business consultant, interim manager and writer, Andrew operates through his company, Burning Pine Ltd (
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