The lack of individual innovation or creativity is more than just a personal challenge – it’s a corporate problem. Profits depend on knowledge workers’ ability to generate new solutions, think on their feet and make complex decisions. When that doesn’t – or can’t – happen, it’s up to leadership to understand the dynamics and take actions to correct and control them.
There are three particularly insidious culture dynamics that are interfering with innovation at your company – distraction, work culture and reactivity. Distraction is accepted as what happens routinely in a workday – but that is simply not true. What is true is that knowledge workers must manage a tidal wave of information and interruptions daily, making a myriad of decisions, communicating, and applying information as appropriate.
Faced with the flood of incoming information, interruptions and distractions, many knowledge workers are so overwhelmed that they spend much of their time “playing defense,” are less able to identify priorities, and stay mostly in reactive mode. They spend the majority of their time reacting to what happens to them rather than proactively tracking and acting upon the most important or the highest-impact activities. It’s easy for knowledge workers to confuse being busy with being productive when faced with this combination
The work environment only compounds the issue as recent research shows that open-office floor plans reduce attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, concentration and motivation. A recent article shows that even techno-giant Google has to contend with their office space going forward. The old metrics of traditional productivity still weigh into corporate cultures.
Knowledge workers are particularly vulnerable to working during their personal time, neglecting their self-care and failing turning their brain off to get good sleep at night. Naturally, all these factors take a toll on knowledge worker’s ability to be fresh, to offer innovation, and to think creatively.
Traditional answers have included time management and multi-tasking, neither of which works. Only attention management can slay the productivity-stealing dragon of distraction.
To get solutions to the challenges facing knowledge work today, check out my new book, Work Without Walls. It will be the beginning of a new level of freedom in this knowledge economy.