Too often leaders of companies fail to recognize the Pavlovian habits of constant connection and the opportunity cost of think time and ingenuity that it creates.
Recently in Davos, Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo smiled and shared that she checks her mobile device over a hundred and fifty times a day — as though that many interruptions (within a work day) in her leadership rhythm and ability to focus were some badge of honor. Innovation never comes from chaotic interruption.
As a strategy consultant, I’ve worked with the top leaders of organizations across the landscape of American life and commerce. Within most organizations, I see a cultural communication hierarchy that is often broken. The dysfunction is directly related to technology and our perceived human need to “respond.” Business leaders need to address the hierarchy of communication within their organizations by examining and questioning the culture that exists.
Here are two simple ways to begin to regain control and reflection:
Step 1: Recognize the Relationship Between Immediacy & Reflection
CEOs and Leadership Teams must take the time to consider and debate the institutional relationship between immediacy and reflection. Technology provides us with immediacy. Reflection provides us think time. I would urge leaders to strengthen their company cultures by welcoming time for reflection instead of defaulting to constant connectedness. Creating this distance between immediacy and reflection makes room for ingenuity, creativity, and thoughtful controlled responding. It alleviates burnout, anxiety, and institutionalized communication confusion. Have the debate now and declare a new future and social contract. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, an unexamined organization is not worth leading.
Step 2: Determine What’s Lurking Within Your Digital Culture
Your company already has a digital culture. The most powerful digital tools for most organizations are e-mail and texting. Leaders must study and see trends of usage within e-mail and observe what’s happening through instant messaging habits. How much has asynchronous digital conversation subsumed thoughtful dialogue? It’s had a greater impact than you can imagine. Rich human dialogues and having difficult conversations are what make businesses unique; email and instant messaging/texting is likely destroying high contact human connection and suppressing the debates that matter the most.
Ultimately, technology provides us with such immediacy that we have become a global generation of humans who “respond” rather than a generation of humans who “think, reflect” and then “respond.” Businesses leaders need to look within their organizations and address the need for a new working digital communication culture. A culture that is wildly self-aware and that embraces the power of reflection before responding.
Daniel Patrick Forrester is the Founder and CEO of THRUUE. As an author, strategist, and navigator of organizational and cultural change, Daniel regularly challenges leaders and their boards to be guided by “big ideas” and act purposefully to realize intended impact. The drive and ideas behind THRUUE come directly from his book, Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization, which is informed by decades of reflective thinking and strategy consulting with for-profit and non-profit organizations.