Back in October Shannon came home and told me about a fascinating story she had just heard on NPR on the subject of interruption science (if you’d like to interrupt this story right now you can surf over there and listen to the story – it’s really good).
It really hit a key with us. We could readily identify with the people described on the NPR story who were overly connected knowledge workers with multiple e-mail inboxes, a couple of BlackBerries, cell phone, fax machine, RSS feeds, IM’s, Blogs, multiple jobs, kids, family – you get the idea because many of you are living it yourself. BTW: as I write this I have 15 open window tabs on Firefox. Do you ever find yourself closing browser tabs just because it just starts to bug you that so many are open, or because you click on one that isn’t what you thought it was, only to go on a needle-and-haystack like search for your content?
A feature of the NPR story was an article written by Clive Thompson set to appear in NY Times Magazine. You can get the full text of Clive’s story on his blog here. You really must read this!
The NPR story and Clive’s piece inspired us to dig around a little more on the Internet and that turned up another great article on interruption science in Discover Magazine. It cites a study from the The Institute of Psychiatry at Kings college in London. Here are some of our favorite points:
- “researchers drew attention to their study by noting that multitasking is worse for your ability to concentrate than getting stoned.”
- “We’re worried about what cultural critic David Shenk calls ‘data smog’ as we wade through e-mail, voice mail, and instant messages, as well as the near-infinite distraction of surfing the World Wide Web.”
- “Strategies for dealing with ‘infomania’ a term coined by those researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry involve variations of pulling the plug.”
- “The trick is separating periods when you need to focus diligently from periods when you’re happy to be following multiple threads the difference between old-fashioned paying attention and what multimedia pioneer Linda Stone calls continuous partial attention.
- “That’s the premise behind BusyBody, a new software package under development at Microsoft. The software is designed to sense the ‘cost of interruption’ at any given point in a user’s interaction with the machine.”
- “The Institute for the future in Palo Alto, California, recently conducted a survey of Fortune 500 companies and found that individual employees send and receive, on average, 178 messages each day via email, phone, voice mail, fax, and pager. The typical employee has to stop work to answer messages three times every hour.”
What’s the point? Besides being self evident we think that interruption science has huge ramifications for interactive advertising, connecting with job seekers, getting in the zone at work and being more productive. I’d like to expand on this thought but I’ve gotta deal with an e-mail.