Workplace Success – What You Need to Know this Week

Here are three stories people are talking about this week.

1. Information overload is raising costs and lowering productivity

Information overload — including having smartphones and other devices that keep employees connected to their jobs 24/7 — is overwhelming workers and undermining worker productivity, says Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends report. “With everyone hyper-connected, the reality may be that employees have few opportunities to get away from their devices and spend time thinking and solving problems,” say the researchers. And all that information isn’t even doing what it’s designed to do: Despite this near-constant level of connectivity, nearly three-quarters of workers say that they still can’t find the info they need in their company’s information systems, and 57 percent say their companies are weak at helping employees manage packed schedules and information flow. There’s a bottom-line impact too, of course — the report estimates that information overload costs mid-size companies $10 million a year.

What to do with this bad news? The authors recommend starting first with the recognition that hyper-conectivity is a business concern. From there, they recommend companies look for ways to simplify processes and systems, keep teams small, and help leaders do a better job of providing focus.

2. Brainstorming doesn’t work – Brain-writing does

If you get pulled into brainstorming meetings that never seem to quite justify the time they take, you’ll be interested in research showing that brainstorming doesn’t work as well as people think it does. “Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation,” Loran Nordgren, a management professor at the Kellogg School, told Fast Company. “They establish the kinds of norms, or cement the idea of what are appropriate examples or potential solutions for the problem.” The researchers also cite “conformity pressure,” where participants blurt out more obvious ideas first, everyone else coalesces around those ideas, and more creative thoughts never get developed.

Instead, the researchers suggest “brain-writing,” where people write down their ideas first, unbiased by anyone else, and then share all of them. One researcher found that brain-writing groups generated 20% more ideas and 42% more original ideas than traditional brainstorming groups.

3. You need a time-out

In the rush of day-to-day work, how often do you carve out time to reflect on what you’ve learned? Not often, I’d bet, if you’re like most people. But new research shows that reflecting on what we’ve done helps us do it more effectively the next time: Groups found that groups that reflected and wrote notes about what they’d learned performed 18 percent better and felt more competent and effective than people who didn’t. And when they tested their findings on employees at a tech support call center, they found that employees who spent the last 15 minutes of each day writing and reflecting on the lessons they had learned that day performed 23 percent better than others – and that jumped even higher if they explained their notes to a fellow employee.


Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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