Research on Multitasking at Work

As we all try to constantly improve ourselves, take some time to read through some of these thoughts from 4 articles on multitasking.

Article 1: Multitasking Hurts Performance

This is just one example of many studies dating back to the 1920’s that show that our performance suffers while multitasking.
“In every test, students who spent less time simultaneously reading e-mail, surfing the web, talking on the phone and watching TV performed best.“These are all very standard tasks in psychology,” said Nass. “In the first, there’s lots of evidence that if people do poorly, they have trouble ignoring irrelevant information. For the second task, there are many demonstrations that this is a good reflection of people’s ability to organize things in their working memory. The third task shows how fast and readily people switch from doing one thing to another.”
Article 2: We Are Bad At It

I know this doesn’t apply to YOU because you are a great multitasker. Somewhere is the nonsense “three Stanford University researchers offers perhaps the most surprising result: those who consider themselves to be great multitaskers are in fact the worst multitaskers.

Article 3: Exactly How it Takes Time and Hurts Performance

This helps us understand exactly how context switching and multitasking eat away at our day with some good visuals and real life scenarios.

“The more information you have to keep in short term memory, the harder it is to get back to the level of high performance.”

A real life example where the black represents the time it takes back to the same level of production as before the interruption.

The author also recognizes the down side of focusing on one thing when you have multiple responsibilities.
“The one downside to understanding context switching is that it tends to make me late for things. While I’m in the thick of debugging some code, I sometimes notice that I need to be somewhere soon. Realizing that it will take much more time to get to my current state if I stop now, I just keep on coding until I can get to a good mental stopping point. It’s great if you don’t want to waste time but it’s never fun being late.”

Article 4: Little Changes to Make it Better

Shorter article, but at the end gives suggestions for more efficient work styles.

Making these changes by yourself can make a big impact. Making some changes as a group can fundamentally change our world for the better. How about having a specified blog of time each day that is designated for no IM?


Social Business Models Don’t Matter

Name one thing in your organization that has worked that didn’t have an owner or champion. If your social business strategy has some utopian ideal that can be dispersed across all parts of the organization and everyone will just magic it you need to quit and start over. Seriously.

You don’t have a single group in your organization that operates independently now. Everyone needs information from other groups so saying that social is no different isn’t a breakthrough and can’t be your strategy. Social has already changed every group in your organization. That don’t need responsibilities they need help and guidance.


Mission control, centralized, hub and dandelion. Whatever. That shit is just a picture on a slide. You need to know how what you want your company to look like and accomplish in there communication. Then determine what role social plays in that. Then figure out how and when Suzy gets her part to Bob so Jill can incorporate it and Billy can measure it.

Your organization probably already knows what it wants to be and do. Social is a part of that. Just a part of it, your model is already created. Don’t focus on the model, focus on the people in the model.


Finding Influencers for your Brand

This post was sparked by reading and interview with Tina Wells, chief executive officer and founder at Buzz Marketing Group, that Diego Vasquez had on Media Life about marketing to millennials.

First off, I think most of this is right on. I especially like the age group of 8-26. It seems no one agrees on how old a millennial is…but that is another post.

Tina said:

“I just believe that Millennials have more influence. The pop culture influence of Millennial-driven media (for example, “Gossip Girl” and “The Hills”) is huge. It’s the influence to purchase that is really huge with this demographic.”
The current idea of influence is misleading. Influence is always attached to the influencer not the influencee.

If we attach influence to the influencee we get one fundamental shift. It makes influence a finite quantity. Only as much influence exists among a target audience as it takes to get them all to act.

This also shatters the Klout score model. Influence isn’t a number assigned to actions it is a percentage of a target’s capacity to be influenced.

This reasoning means that we don’t evaluate Elle magazine an influencer score based on Klout, site traffic, # of Facebook followers, etc. Instead we would look at it from a buyers perspective and determine if Elle magazine would deliver a message about Aveda products it would move a member of our target x% closer to buying Aveda products. Now we can assign percentages differently to Elle’s print advertising, Facebook page, the fashion editors twitter feed, etc.

It also gives us a measurable goal. We are trying to move our target toward 100% influence in order to take action.

Does anybody have thoughts on measuring influencers differently?

Viral Videos Take Effort

Many times in the ideation process or in the pre kick off stage of a project someone has the idea to “make it viral.” It is usually a two part discussion consisting of the suggestion to make a viral widget and the the question on how to do that?

Office Max’s Elf Yourself used to come up in everyone of these conversations but now the Old Spice Guy custom youtube video comes up. This post will explore not how to make something viral but the disconnect that exists between the desire to do great work but the unwillingness to take the risks and put in the effort that requires. We will explore some of the things that these two giants did to make the point of what it takes to do viral work.

How did OfficeMax know that Elf Yourself would go viral? That was a stroke of genius right? It wasn’t, it was a stroke of testing and failing.  OfficeMax actually launched 20 sites and must have concepted untold hundreds. How did they choose the 20?  Elf yourself is the result of failing 19 times. Are you willing to pay to build 20 sites with the hopes that one goes viral? If you take that risk and win you get to do interviews in trade pubs, if you take that risk and lose you spent your bonus on a website about dancing elves. Viral is a risk. Viral isn’t an accident.

The brilliance that made Old Spice Guy viral wasn’t the idea it was the execution. The ridiculous level of client agency trust has been well documented and I won’t re-hash past saying that if you need legal for every status update don’t expect to execute at this level. Old Spice Guy also didn’t conceive it as a way around a small budget. Teams of writers, social, strategists and over hundred videos sounds expensive to me. I would pay to the that scope of work document. Viral is expensive.

It also isn’t just a video, sure cats playing piano occasionally are viral for a couple of hours and get views. This isn’t the same value as an experience or interaction that creates a brand impression. Both Elf and Old Spice Guy were participatory. Viral is engaging.

It is easy for agencies to suggest these risks, but we have an obligation to clients to suggest them in a responsible way and provide realistic counsel. If you want to make a viral video and have $11k to spend we need to not do it. Big things take effort. The $11k video isn’t as big a risk but is almost guaranteed not to go viral. The flip side is clients can’t ask for and expect big and viral results when the insist the project is done in a small way.

Content is Currency of Social Web

Recently on ReadWriteWeb, Mike Vosters wrote a post discussing his opinion that the social web is focused on the production rather than the consumption of content. I don’t believe there is a content surplus on the social web today.

Supply and Demand Graphic We know that any online community is made up of several types of users, consistently the smallest group is the one creating the content and participating at the highest level.

Social network sites have the content creation section front and center because most people stop by to check on their network but not actually update themselves.

This graphic spells trouble for any market but we not anywhere near approaching anything close to this. Demand for social web content is tied to the same action as creating it.  Every time a user checks-in he or she views pictures, scrolls through tips and reads comments from their friends.  Every time someone updates their status the are view the content left by their network.

This unique characteristic of the social web makes it hard to apply grocery store economics to it. If every time the milk delivery truck dropped of a jug of milk it bought a loaf of bread, a candy bar and two boxes of cereal we wouldn’t being talking about the glut of milk.

Cognitive Surplus for Brands

Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at New York University, recently spoke on Cognitive Surplus at Ted@Cannes.  This video shows him discussing how we are using our trillion hours of surplus time to do brilliant things from Ushahidi to LOLcats.  He also discusses the power of both economic and social motivation in capturing this excess time.

Shirky is concerned on how we recognize, motivate and reward those using their cognitive surplus for civic good.  I think there are implications for brands as well.

Motivating Use of Cognitive Surplus

The relationship people have with a brand clearly differs from the daycare/parent relationship in Shirky’s example. However, the brands that win in motivating use of cognitive surplus will do so by understanding the social contract they have with their fans.

It is worth noting that surplus does not carry the connotation of being less valuable as it often does.  Is your cognitive surplus valuable to you? (maybe not, if you participate in LOLcats)

The question of what motivates consumers to purchase, or even like, a brand may not be the only question we should ask.  Maybe we should be asking what motivates a consumer to expend their cognitive surplus on interacting with a brand.

Motivating action only covers half of gaining value from surplus energy, you also need to understand what specific surplus needs to be tapped into.

Segmenting and Valuing Cognitive Surplus

That trillion hours contains millions of different segments with different value to different organizations.  As brands segment their target audience, they should be as interested in what surplus skills exist in a segment as they are with what media that segment consumes.

Segmenting allows specific excess brain power to be valued differently based on whose brain it is and what action we want it to take.  As Howard Gardner recognized different intelligences, we need to identify and define different cognitive surpluses so we can understand how they relate to our brands.

What should a brand do differently to tap into a cognitive surplus of lawn mowing than it would to tap into a group of 29-45 year old homeowners living in the suburbs?  The MiracleGrow’s and Snapper’s of the world will have to start asking that question.

As we build interactive and social communication programs, the knowledge that we are not competing for generic free time becomes increasingly important.  We are competing for a share of a specialized function.