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The Antidote to Attention Deficit

| | Personal Leadership

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel wrote an article A Shift from “I don’t need an iPad to “I LOVE my iPad that prompted me to think about my own experience as an iPad owner over the last 6 months.

I echo the sentiments Robyn shares in her article.  There is also one fundamental distinction that my use of the i-Pad has brought to light. This shift not only applies to what this incredible new technology makes possible, but also applies to leading in an attention deficit world.

The best way I can come up with to describe the fundamental shift I am speaking of is from consuming to connecting.

I’ll start by sharing my experience of this distinction as a user of an i-Pad.  Then I’ll share what I think the implications are for leading in today’s world.

From the moment I first held an i-Pad in my hands I had this experience of being drawn in.

That visceral, physical experience of holding the device in my hands and being able to explore the content with an intuitive touch of my fingertips created a connection with the content that I have not previously experienced – not on my BlackBerry, i-Phone or i-Touch, Kindle, nor on my superfast laptop or high definition screens even though I love every one of these devices.

Now I figured there was some novelty factor at first and expected that sense of connection and play that I experienced the first time would fade. But it hasn’t.

I have purchased a variety of apps that are essentially information products wrapped up as an app. The ones that hold my attention are those that are well designed. By that I mean they offer more than just wrapping up audio and video files or regurgitate pdf content. The well designed apps offer a truly interactive experience and makes navigating through the content a self-directed and intuitive process.

By far the application that sets the standard for great “information product” app design is Robyn’s new app Embracing Change. And while it was developed by Polymash, a company I am now part of, this app was developed before I began working with this company. It was this app that had me see the incredible potential of delivering content in a way that could exponentiate the impact like nothing I had ever seen.

I was clear I had seen a glimpse of the future of how technology will more powerfully connect content owners, including authors, teachers, coaches and consultants, with their clients. And I jumped in with both feet, not only for the possibility of what it could mean for delivering my own body of work in the service of my clients, but for how I could support others doing amazing work in expanding the impact of their work in the world.

Through a well designed app on the i-Pad, instead of consuming information we can somehow connect more deeply with it.

It’s like the difference between going to a museum and reading a book about it. Instead of listening to audios and videos we have the experience of being with the people who produced them. We can also in the moment be reach out to these people and/or their community and interact live in ways that are both natural and easy.

So what does all this have to do with leadership…

John Maxwell sums it up in his book titled: Everyone Communicates Few Connect.  The essential point of the book is that effective communication is not a function of the words delivered, but rather whether the listener connects with both the person and the message.  Never has this been more important than now, when getting and keeping peoples attention is so difficult.

Connection is the antidote to attention deficit.  When we fail to make a meaningful connection in some way we will fail to get someone’s attention.

As leaders, whether we are in a position of leadership, a coach, a teacher, etc. we always have a message we want to deliver and we want that message to make an impact on the listener. Yet all too often our focus in communicating that message is on what we want to say, how we want to say it and through which vehicles we want to deliver the message.

For example, people in positions of leadership may send a company-wide e-mail or do a live video broadcast so they can be seen and heard. A lot of work goes into those scripts. Information products are created that are nothing more than a series of videos of live events. The information can be very valuable.

Yet it is the emotional connection with both those delivering the message and with the content that will make the difference between whether the communication is an intellectual exercise or a truly transformative opportunity that motivates inspired action on the part of the listener.

The lesson for leaders: get out of your box when it comes to communication. Just don’t write the script, design and implement a communication process.  And in the words of John Maxwell, don’t just focus on communicating, ensure you are connecting.

Here are two critical steps in the communication design process:

  1. Before you fully craft how you will deliver the message find out as much as you can to those you want to receive it, to those you want to learn from you or join you in manifesting your vision. It is up to you to build the bridges of understanding.
  2. Once you have the message crafted, create as many opportunities for the people to whom you are delivering your message to connect with you and/or with others who are leading or teaching with you.

Keep in mind that communication is not a “once and done” process.  Any message worth hearing once is worth hearing over and over.  Think about it – do you ever get tired of great quotes? Besides, it’s likely you didn’t craft the message or come upon the wisdom you have to share in a day so don’t expect it to be delivered successfully in a single one way communication.

While some might argue that technology is the source of an attention deficit world, I believe today’s technology is an incredible asset for effective communication in an attention deficit world.

So don’t just think about pushing your message out so people can take it in i.e., consume it. It’s time to think about how you can leverage technology to increase the connection with you, your message, as well as the connection among the people engaging with that message. You might even be surprised by just how valuable those connections will be for you as well.

Personally I think tablet devices will play a big role in communicating and learning going forward.  Yet there are plenty of technologies to leverage that are right here, right now and accessible by virtually anyone.  If you re not already. it’s time to start using it!

What do you think?

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Enter A Comment

Dr. Ben   |   06 April 2011   |   Reply

Love this – creating bridges and transformative experiences by transitioning from “telling” and “consuming” to connecting. Thanks for so clearly articulating clear distinctions that can give us all powerful tracks to purposefully explore in this amazing age of technology and communication!

Susan Mazza   |   07 April 2011   |   Reply

Thanks so much Dr. Ben. Love this phrase “powerful tracks to purposely explore” – the best part is when people like you jump in and explore with me!

Nisha Varghese   |   07 April 2011   |   Reply

I agree with you technology is a wonderful thing but the problem is most people don’t know how to use it effectively

Susan Mazza   |   07 April 2011   |   Reply

So true Nisha. Yet today you can learn a lot of technology tools without ever needing a manual – it is so much more of an intuitive process than it was when I worked in IT related functions in big companies in the late 80’s/90’s. Tools like the i-Pad make adopting new technology and tools much less daunting. The best part is we each get to determine what effective use is on our own terms. You just have to be willing to learn and explore.

Bret Simmons   |   07 April 2011   |   Reply

I don’t one an Iphone (yet), Susan, but I’m looking to make the jump soon 🙂 Concur strongly that leaders need to connect, and the tools to help us connect have never been better. You did not mention it here, but I think most leaders should be blogging, either internally or externally. In her new book “Army of Entrepreneurs,” Jennifer Prosek describes how she uses internal blogs to connect with her employees and to have them connect with each other and customers. There is a paradigm shift happening right now, and I’m sorry to say many leaders are sleeping through it.

Susan Mazza   |   07 April 2011   |   Reply

Great point Bret. Thank you for bringing blogging into the mix.

Interestingly enough I worked with an organization a while back and they jumped on the idea of an internal blog. Except the only person they would allow to have a blog was the CEO.

It was a reminder that people naturally use new tools based on their current context. In this case internal blogging was perceived as nothing more than an alternative to e-mail communication. And hierarchy was clearly driving the show.

With social technologies, the minute you try to control participation (including mandating it) you’ve shackled it’s potential. Yet it can be very hard to let go of the belief that everything has to be (and can be) controlled and managed.