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Dec 02, 2013 | Post by: regangossett No Comments

Leading and Multitasking

Reading time – 27 seconds

Several years ago the Insurance Institute of America did an extensive study focusing on the effect on safety of using a cell phone while driving.  Clearly, they were motivated to learn what, if any, effect there might be, since their member companies were paying the bills for all those auto crashes.  What they found was more than noteworthy.

They found that using a cell phone while driving was the safety equivalent of driving while legally drunk.  Reaction times were dramatically altered by that little electronic marvel and, had their simulations been conducted in real automobiles on real streets with real cars, pedestrians and fixed objects, there would have been a lot of bent metal and damaged people.

Interestingly, they found that using a hands-free device had minimal impact on performance results.  It turns out that the thing causing the increased on-street mayhem wasn’t the alternate use of hands; it was the alternate use of drivers’ brains.

You can’t multitask.  No, really, you can’t.  When we do what we call multitasking we are really causing our brains to rapidly shift from one task to another, giving the appearance of multitasking.  But we really cannot actually focus on more than one thing at a time with anything that requires more than rudimentary cognitive focus.

The IIA’s study was repeated at the University of Minnesota and they got the same results.  Further, they reported that when we human beings attempt to do two things at once we create two unintended results.  First, it takes longer to complete the two tasks by multitasking than had they been attempted individually.  Second, we humans do a poorer job of both tasks when we multitask.  That’s why your driving performance suffers to the point of exceeding that of intoxication when you’re using your cell phone.

Here’s a nice piece from Tony Schwartz on the Harvard Business Review blog about this very topic as it applies to leaders.  When you shuffle papers, look at incoming emails or do anything else when in discussion with someone who looks to you for leadership, both tasks suffer.  That is to say, your leadership – and, correspondingly, others’ followership – is dramatically compromised when you do things other than Be Here Now (Fully Alive Leadership Practice #5).

So, take heed, and remember to be with those who follow you when you are with them.  They’re watching all the time and it matters to them big time.


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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler and Fully Alive Leadership. All rights reserved. Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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