Re: Generations #generations

Peter Marshall <peter.marshall@...>

Hi Martin! :-) Give hugs to the Toronto gang for me.

So I don't believe that multi-tasking (or the ability to use
chat-abbreviations) is generational.

But I have observed a general decline in the business world of the
tolerance or patience for reflective thought. A kind of culturally
programmed ADD that seems to have obliterated the capacity of most
people to follow complex thoughts, or develop a nuanced understanding.
And actually, I think this affects more senior execs from the old
generation more than younger folks.

Now it's always been true that as execs got older, they get to the
point more and more quickly, they avoid sophomoric theorizing and
over-analysis, they navigate their personal networks to find answers
rather than trying to understand everything themselves. All good.

But I'm talking about somethin different and new -- an inability to
think complex thoughts. And I trace this back to our over-stimulated,
snippet-based culture. News as sound bites. IM rather than letters.
Responses required at blackberry pace rather than thoughtful pace.
And I think this is not effective... I think those that fall into this
trap will end up getting out-competed by those that still can think.

I personally have always been struck by the beautiful, complex
thinking that even the commonest Civil War recruit could express in
letters back home, let alone the gorgeous thinking of folks like John
Adams or Beethoven, compared to the useless "hey u. wywh. twittering
away.." of our time. It's startling and obvious -- no way to avoid
seeing the obvious downside of our culture.

And I personally find that the capacity for reflective thought is
greatly enhanced by practice. For the last year, I have handwritten a
letter to a particular friend every morning, and I find it to be a
very useful way to get the mind humming. I also find that running
outdoors or similar meditative exercise every single day is enormously
helpful... the time spent is always paid back in spades.


On Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 2:40 PM, <> wrote:
There are somethings I can multitask well at, and others I fail dismally

I can track my state in multiple tasks - e.g. configure software or servers,
interject into conversations at the right time, no problem. These are all
tactical, following existing grooves in my mind. Likewise I can brainstorm,
do expansive tasks.

When I am formulating something, a plan, or prose, something where I have a
story to tell, be strategic, condensive, then I must concentrate.

Words on the radio that get my evaluative mind going seem to block my
ability to think strategically whilst doing something else.

Having the TV on while I work is a killer for me. If my mind gets really
pulled into a story, I'm toast.

My wife, on the other hand, will ignore the TV if its on. Except that she
WANTS it on because it helps her not get board with the task at hand.

I bought her a pair of headphones :)

On Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 2:08 PM, Peter Marshall <>

Vert interesting discussion.

I agree that there are annoying (and counterproductive) current
cultural misconceptions with respect to age or generation and the
capability to multi-task. I see plenty of examples of old farts who
still can't tell the difference between their computer screen and
their browser and who think IM is the devil, but I see just as many
that can multi-task better than most teens, because they've learned
how their minds work. Having 6 chats going at once while doing
homework and watching TV is just a normal use of the brain's capacity,
if one wishes.

Certainly there is a "personal style" element which is interesting
too. I find it fascinating that exactly half of my immediate family
-- one of my sisters, my mom, and I -- all feel most comfortable in a
"distracting" environment. I love to concentrate amidst noise; I
think best when 3 things are going on, I work best in cafes -- never
libraries -- never. Although I love the solitude and quiet of
running, kayaking, and biking too. Go figure. My dad and my other 2
sisters are the polar opposite. There is no correlation in this tiny
sample set between this preference for ferment and analytic ability,
but there is a noticeable correlation with creativity/artistic feel.


On Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 9:16 AM, David Snowden <>
There are no universal rules here

Some people can multitask and some tasks are compatable (watching
star trek while doing your maths homework, listening to music while
to take too personal examples). Its partly a matter of what the brain is
used to. Listening to a conference call while using instant messaging
in my experience increase concentration overall.

Dave Snowden
Founder & Chief Scientific Officer
Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd
Now blogging at

On 3 Jul 2008, at 09:12, Gardner, Mike wrote:

I think it depends what you mean by multi-tasking.

I absolutely agree that trying to do two things at once leads to neither
being done correctly. You only have to look at the evidence for the use
hand held phones in cars whilst driving to show this is the case. Trying
do the two things together leads to accidents (and hence the ban on
use in the UK). And even the evidence for the use of hands free phones
cars and their relation to accidents is piling up (no metaphor

I have found that I sometimes will listen to a conference call, have an
instant message conference going in the background with some attendees,
be reading my email at the same time. But if someone suddenly asks you a
question in the meeting, how often do you find you have missed the last
point and have to ask them to recap. There may be an appropriate level
you are only in a listening mode and can do some email processing while
listening to a teleconference. I would be interested to know if this has
ever been identified.

However, the focus on a single task with no other focus for the full day
also detract from productivity. You sometimes need to step back and do
something else, and then return to the task with a fresh impetus. I know
find that if I concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of all else I
my mind starts to wander on to other subjects.

Mike Gardner
EDS CIO EKM Team - EDS Taxonomist & Content Rationalization Leader
Telephone: +44 (0)1332 663964 (Home Office)
Mobile: +44 (0)7790 492991
Work from home, Derby, UK

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From: []
Behalf Of Bill Linn
Sent: 03 July 2008 08:42
Subject: [sikmleaders] Re: Multitasking

Here is another idea from Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. in his book
Crazy Busy he has a chapter on the Myth and Reality of Multitasking.
In it he says on page 19 that, "It is fine to believe that
multitasking is a skill necessary in the modern world, but to believe
it is an equivalent substitute for single-minded focus on one task is

I would agree with what Dr. Hallowell says on this. I personally
perform better on a task when I am focused and devote my attention to
it. I think you might find Crazy Busy and interesting book. It is a
very affordable book, easy to read and I feel it is a great resource
for my personal productivity study.

--- In, dkkildebeck@... wrote:

Great article on the Creative Passionate Users blog "Multitasking
makes us stupid?"
"Perhaps the biggest problem of all, though, is that the majority
of people doing the most media multitasking have a big-ass blind spot
on just how much they suck at it.
We believe we can e-mail and talk on the phone at the same time,
with little or no degradation of either communication.
We believe we can do homework while watching a movie.
We believe we can surf the web while talking to our
But we can't! (Not without a hit on every level--time, quality, and
the ability to think deeply)".
Here's the full article:

-------------- Original message --------------
From: "allan crawford" <allancrawford@...>
And once you have wireless in your car will you be trying to drive
at the same time?

John Medina's new book Brain Rules has some interesting insights
into the effectives (or lack of) for multitasking at any ageā€¦.

Allan Crawford

[] On Behalf Of Bill Ives
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 7:01 PM
Subject: [sikmleaders] stop bashing the "older generations"

Good for you Validis, as an already gone grey consultant, I am
tired of all this old folks bashing around the use of social
software. Here is a blog post on a recent Enterprise 2.0 conference
where this came up and I objected. Us older people have actually
seen multiple waves of new technologies and can perhaps have a bit
more perspective here.


On Jul 2, 2008, at 9:00 PM, Valdis Krebs wrote:

As a starting-to-gray consultant, I have had a half a several Skype
chat sessions going at once, while I listen in on a conference
while I read/answer simple emails.

Not my typical day, but us old farts can multi-task too!


On Jul 2, 2008, at 7:23 PM, Ge, Yao (Y.) wrote:

There is a huge generation gap on "braing thrashing threshold".
Y seems to be able mutli-tasking much more effectively than older
generations (like me).

Peter Marshall
SVP, Platform Strategy & Chief Technology Officer
Peracon, Inc.
1650 Tysons Blvd., Suite 950
McLean, VA 22102
Office: (703) 748-7517
Mobile: (949) 689-7000
Skype: ideasware
PS. Hi Peter!
Martin Cleaver MSc MBA
Cell: 416-786-6752
Peter Marshall
SVP, Platform Strategy & Chief Technology Officer
Peracon, Inc.
1650 Tysons Blvd., Suite 950
McLean, VA 22102
Office: (703) 748-7517
Mobile: (949) 689-7000
Skype: ideasware

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