E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

The High Cost of Interruptions

Just today, as I was surfing away on the Internet looking for some information related to communities and their complex interactions I bumped, quite by chance, like it usually happens, with a very interesting article that even though it is several months old it is still very relevant today and it makes for a good and interesting reading and worth while a weblog post. This one.

The article itself is titled The High Cost of Interruptions and it has been published in KMWorld. It comes to talk how disruptive interruptions could be for the knowledge worker and how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to manage those interruptions in order to continue being productive. Indeed, it looks like attention management is an art and as such it would require some effort to be able to master it effectively. I think we would all recognise and identify very much with the article itself, even more if we are currently involved working in multiple teams / communities. I bet that more than once you have received multiple IM sessions, or several urgent e-mails that would require your attention almost immediately, or a phone call that has been on hold for a while already, or all of a sudden somebody knocks on the door wanting to ask something. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, in a world where we seem to constantly get interrupted by a number of different things in order to get our work done, it is always a good reminder to read articles like The High Cost of Interruptions as they clearly indicate that at the end of the day no matter what type of interruptions we are currently being faced with (Whether they are total, dominant, partial or background interruptions) we are always the ones in control; just like one of my colleagues wrote over at her Intranet weblog and which I think would be a very appropriate quote to counteract the effect of the article itself:

We create our own distractions and just need to learn to manage them

Indeed, we are the ones who need to learn how to manage them so that instead of being interruptions they would be transformed and considered productive work. I do not think that there is such a thing as a “good” or “bad” interruption. I just think that we may not have learned how to manage them in such a environment that would then allow us to turn them into some productive work. Think, for instance, in the case where you may be working with a team / community and you get those interruptions. In principle, if managed well, they can be very useful because they would introduce a very powerful component in helping build those relationships with your peers in order to collaborate much closer and, perhaps, much more effectively as well. Negotiating and managing those interruptions with your colleagues would certainly be probably one of those key components that would allow people to build up on their social capital skills, which, as we know, it is one of the success factors from any community, whether they are just getting started or a mature community.

So how are you managing that social capital within your teams / communities ? Are your knowledge workers having the feeling they are not being productive, or, on the contrary, do they feel that engaging in those interruptions is productive to them as well to those who originate them since it allows them to collaborate closer with one another ? I think that interruptions can certainly be very damaging if they are not managed properly. However, they can also be very strong enablers to establish multiple and more complex levels of interactions both in teams and in communities. And perhaps that is not such a bad thing, is it?

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