Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Rushing to Mediocrity

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Rushing to Mediocrity

Article excerpt

PITCHING ACE RANDY JOHNSON was interviewed a couple of years ago about his storied concentration while on the mound. He was asked if the shouts and roar of the crowd affected him much. Not really, he said. "I'm thinking about my next pitch." Then he countered with an interesting question: "How can the mind be in two places at one time?"

His point wasn't about science, but about focus.

You can, of course, do one thing while thinking of something else (drive and talk on a cellphone). But you won't do either as well as if you were focused on one or the other. Increasingly in business it seems that's what we're doing--working on or thinking about two or more things at once. The effect is a lot of motion, a lot of stress, but not a lot of quality results.

Multi-tasking is one of the great business myths. How often do you see colleagues at a meeting or on the phone staring at their BlackBerry, scrolling through one message after another? If you're checking your e-mail, you're not really listening. And if you're half listening, then you're also only half reading or half thinking. So what's the point?

This behavior is fed by another myth: the need for an instant response. Nine times out of ten, the real reasons behind this are insecurity, self-importance, or an excuse to keep from doing something else we should be doing.

If we did nothing but deal with e-mail, we could easily fill several hours a day. E-mail is a facilitator, and clearly it makes certain things possible that were not possible before. But it is not a task unto itself. Yet that is what it has become.

Business managers and professionals have become slaves to devices. …

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