The other day, I wanted to read an article on the CLO site. I went there, but I found the article too hard to read; there were bloody animated gifs everywhere! Really, it’s only like 5 years since we realized that animated gifs make things hard to look at, and it’s based upon perceptual psychology way older than that.
Our eyes have cones at the center that pick up color and fine detail, and rods at the edge that kick in for low-light situations. Those rods also detect motion, and we’re wired to move our attention to things that move in the periphery of our vision (survival, naturally :). So, if we’re focused on reading something, and an ad is moving in the periphery, we can’t read it well. And CLO spread the article across four pages with moving ads all over the place. I gave up, which I presume isn’t their intention. Time to get a clue; you can’t process what you can’t attend to.
That’s a low level distraction, but we see this at multiple levels. A higher-level one that’s going on around here is the kitchen demolition. It’s made it harder to blog, as I’ve had a hard time doing deep reflection when there’re continual interruptions (worse these next few days, I’ve got the kids while my wife is away visiting her mother; don’t expect there to be a lot of posts this week). Interestingly, it hasn’t had a similar impact on my tweeting, which is an interesting outcome. We intuitively know that tweeting is different than blogging (hence the sobriquet: micro-blogging), but it was brought home more vividly. It’s interesting to think about the cognitive differences we find, and their utility for learning. As I previously mentioned, social networking could support virtual mentorships, and tweeting I think is more immediately tied to a person’s current state, while blogs are more closely tied to their longer-term thinking. Both, of course, could/should be coupled together for a really rich picture. How many of you are finding that watching a person’s tweets and blog posts together provide a rich picture?
There’s another level, of course, at the organizational level. Doug Engelbart, one of our true visionaries, who’s guiding principle of augmenting human intelligence has led him to contributions in many places, has talked about a three-layer system for ongoing improvement. He posits one layer reviewing our daily action for improvements, and his unique insight is a layer above, looking to improve our improvement processes, across organizations. The ongoing review is sort of an institutionalized reflection, and the next layer is meta-learning at an societal level.
I still argue that one of the best investments that can be made is reflection, particularly for knowledge work and any individual or organization that needs to not just survive but thrive in the growing flow of information and chaos. Systematize it, support it, promote it, reward it, and use it.