It’s the interval in a large concert hall, the first half of the concert has been sublime, but as soon as the lights come up a large proportion of the audience are reaching for their phones. What triggers this response, is it an addiction?
I saw it again yesterday (and if I’m honest I also participated) during a very good conference with Tim Harford and Freek Vermeulen, the break was announced and 80% of the audience pulled out their phones or Blackberry.
One part of the answer may come from David Rock in a recent article, ‘Are Our Minds Going the Way of Our Waists?’ ‘To the brain, simply receiving new information tends to activate the reward circuitry: information itself can be rewarding, which prompted neuroscientist* Jonah Lehrer to coin the term ‘information craving.’ Thus people can easily become addicted to getting information quickly and often’.
I wonder if we are equally addicted to being busy, to doing; to a feeling that we are making progress with the todo list. Does this also provide a reward to the brain. (In a quick search I couldn’t find a study.) How many managers and leaders do you know who aren’t too busy doing?
I suspect, it is also extremely hard for an individual trapped in this cycle of doing and information craving to recognise that they are losing their perspective on themselves and their place in the world.
It is here that I think coaching has a role to play, to hold the mirror up and encourage leaders to make the space for thinking and reflection. After all how many good ideas have you had when rushing around and how many when you have stepped back and given yourself space?
Our good friend, Geoff Bellman was explaining to me the other day that he now always sets up his leadership retreats in beautiful places. “Because it helps people to become immersed in another world and an inspiring and peaceful environment helps participants see the larger picture.” Apparently, it also helps to hold the event somewhere where there is no mobile signal!
One of Geoff’s gifts is questions. He poses questions for people in a wonderful way, that use the space and time to help you step back and reflect. His next leadership retreat will be ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times’ and is to be held on a sail boat from Bali with a small group of senior executives from around the world. It sounds fantastic and I wish I could go, (there are a few limited places left if you know someone who would benefit from some time to reflect) but for now I will have to content myself with reflecting and not doing when I get a chance to take to the Scottish mountains this weekend.
Here’s my question to reflect on from Geoff:
To survive, to thrive, you must be acutely aware of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
Knowing yourself makes success more likely and sustainable. This calls up questions important to many of us …
■ What does real organizational transformation look like?
■ What am I doing to help or hinder my organization to make the necessary transitions?
■ How can I create order in the midst of disorder?
■ What do I need to know about myself to succeed at work?
■ How can I artfully bring my vulnerability and strength together?
■ What can I do to liberate myself from past patterns?
Great questions for me to ponder as I climb a scottish mountain in the rain, mist and cloud or at any time when I get the chance to reflect.
* Jonah Lehrer is a contributing editor at Wired and the author ofImagine, How We Decide andProust Was a Neuroscientist. He’s also contributed to the New Yorker, the NY Times Magazine and WNYC’s Radiolab.