Tag: technology

Q&A with David Burkus, author of Under New Management

David Burkus is a best-selling author, an award-winning podcaster, and associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. His latest book, Under New Management, challenges the traditional and widely accepted principles of business management and proves that they are outdated, outmoded, or simply don’t work — and reveals what does.
Read on for David’s insights on creativity, technology and how to be a popular boss.
Paul: Thank you, David, for you time and for your insights. In your book, The Myths of Creativity, you outline a practical approach for everyone to find new ideas. Would you share the essence of this approach with us?
David: Myths are stories we develop as a society or culture to explain mysterious things about the world or to reinforce shared beliefs. We’ve done the same thing with creativity. There are a lot of misconceptions about where it comes from or how it’s supposed to work that stand in the way of reaching our true creative potential. When we rewrite the myths about how creativity works, everybody benefits. For example, the Eureka Myth suggests that creative moments just appear suddenly rather than being the product of hard work.
Paul: Distraction and technology seem to be eroding our time alone – what do you think the consequences of this will be and what we can do that might impact this trend.
David: I’m both excited and terrified by connective technology. On the one hand, connectivity is going to enhance the amount of information we have access to and hence the raw material we can use to generate new ideas. On the other, as a temptation for distraction, that same technology can be a huge productivity killer. Everything in moderation – technology too.
Paul: You feature many influential authors and thinkers – like Daniel Pink and Nancy Duarte – on your podcast. Can you name four or five ideas that have come out of your of interviews that have somehow changed who you are or how you live your life?
David: I’m not sure I could narrow it down to four or five ideas, but I can mention a theme I’ve noticed with lots of people: time. Spectacular achievement, more than luck or talent, seems to be the result of putting in the time and continuing to work and improve. I realize that sounds like a cliché or something you’d see in a photo on Facebook, but at the same time, the reverse implication is fascinating. If you’re working hard on making a dent in the universe, you need to give yourself time and not get so frustrated that you haven’t “arrived” yet. It takes time.
Paul: You interviewed Anders Ericsson. How can we apply the idea of deliberate practice in everyday life even when we don’t have ten thousand hours or the desire to be the world’s best?
David: It takes a coach. When I interviewed him, he emphasized the role of feedback and spending time practicing what is hard over and over again until it’s not so hard. It’s not about the number of hours you rack up…it’s about how well spent those hours are. And without a coach or a guide, those hours likely won’t be used to their full potential.
Paul: What advice do you have for first-time supervisors who aspire to be a popular boss that everyone respects?
David: When people read my book Under New Management, they usually have one of two questions. Either they ask how to get started, or they ask what they can do if they’re not the CEO. Ironically, both are the same. Whether you’re sitting in the top seat, or you’re a brand-new manager, figure out what is blocking your people from doing their best work and find a way to eliminate it or shield them from it. Most people want to make a positive contribution, and many times the bureaucracy gets in the way. Your goal is to innovate the organization so that you can set talent free.

Does your family have rules when it comes to technology? If not, you should consider it.

I text regularly with several of my grandchildren – it’s a wonderful way to keep in touch during the times when we can’t be together.
Typically, they are great about responding, but every once in a while I don’t get a reply text. It’s usually because either their parents have taken the phone away or the phones are out of power.
When this happens, I don’t mind. I hate the thought of children having phones attached to them at all times. While it may feel discouraging to them, I hope it actually makes them feel free! Having your phone taken away is a great excuse to not reply to the endless stream of texts that come their way.
It reminds me of the typical parenting agreements and rules created around curfew or being home at certain times. Kids often turn to these rules as a way to get themselves out of difficult situations.
“Sorry, I promised my Mom I would be home at 8 tonight!”
I hope that many families can do this around smartphones and other electronic devices too. The current research on smartphones and texting is disturbing:

Kids send an average of 100 texts each day
84 percent of teens take their phones to bed
Teens are awake about six minutes before they check their phones.

Actually many of us parents resemble the above research, too. The point is that while technology is a great thing, and we know it allows us to be more productive and accessible, we don’t want it to own us. Let’s help our kids learn this early.
What few steps or rules would help your kids?
All families and kids are different, and this is probably something you should work out with your children’s input if they are over eight. But these might be candidates:

All phones are collected and stored after 8pm.
No phones are allowed during dinner or breakfast. This means parents too!
No phones are allowed while homework is being done.
No phones are allowed while driving. Again, for parents too.

In the best of all worlds, parents would be supportive by not accessing any technology during any of the four circumstances above—that’s right, no phones, no television, no tablets, no computers. As psychologist Sherry Turkle argues in a recent article in The Atlantic, it’s time to reclaim conversation by reclaiming attention.

An Agreement About Distraction

Distraction is a big issue these days. Too many of us sit in meetings with a room full of people consulting laptops, smartphones, or other devices, and this trend needs to be stopped cold in its tracks.
As a constant advocate for awareness, presence, and focus, I’ve been fighting the pull of technology both personally and in the classes I teach. I get it that technology is addictive. It takes everything I’ve got to put my smartphone in the back seat when I’m driving. Every commercial on TV is an opportunity to check e-mail.
Yet I know it’s not productive to jump back and forth with my attention between two things. Distractions are especially harmful to meetings—and multitasking is a distraction both to the person doing it and to the other people in the group.
If you’re leading a meeting, here is how you might express an agreement about distraction in the setup for your meeting:
I want you to take care of yourselves, and within that agreement, you certainly have my permission to leave the room at any time to check on your family or critical projects. I realize you may have calls you are waiting for or projects you are tracking. Do what you need to do to feel you have that handled. Please use your judgment and look out for yourself. You can also get up at any time to get coffee, stretch, use the restroom.  
That said, I would love your full attention when we are in the meeting so we can really focus the conversation. So check your electronics at the door. I ask this for two reasons: First, because they are distracting to me and to others. Second, because your attention and listening matter to me, to others in the room, and to the quality of our work together.
If you want to put your phone on vibrate, not a problem, unless it vibrates every five minutes. Exceptions are fine; patterns are troublesome. Also, if you want to take notes or use your tablet to refer to background information on our topics, by all means do so. I just ask that you resist the urge to check e-mail or world news. Deal? Thank you.
“The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits,” explains Clifford Nass, coauthor of a Stanford study on multitasking. “They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks—including multitasking.”
Multitasking has no place in meetings. You may think you are able to follow a conversation as you do something else. But your mind does not actually hear and think two things at the same time. It simply switches back and forth very fast. The moment you look at your smartphone and read that text, you miss what is said in the meeting.
The harm in multitasking is twofold. First, your attention matters to everyone else in the room—especially to the person speaking. Speaking to a group that is not paying attention is distracting at the least and hurtful at worst. People identify with their own speaking, so if you aren’t paying attention to what they say, you send the message that you’re not paying attention to them as a person.
Second, if you’re multitasking, you miss the subtleties in what people say and the nonverbal cues in how they say it. You may be able to keep up with the gist of their words, but you will likely miss most of what they are actually saying.

I know I’m fighting uphill here. A colleague was discussing guidelines for a group’s virtual meetings when someone suggested that everyone agree not to work on their computers during the conference call. One supervisor objected because he thought it would interfere with the productivity of some of his people who were exceptional at multitasking!
But in reality only about 2 percent of people are any good at multitasking. “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” argued MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller in a National Public Radio interview. “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
So don’t delude yourself. Be fully present in every meeting—fully focused on the conversation at hand.