By Stefan Sojka
Look closely… attention deficit creates disorder.
How strange our brains are. Organic supercomputers, with 80+ billion neurons and as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, capable of rendering total immersive live 3D video and surround sound, controlling an entire eco-system of organs without us hardly noticing and practicing such diverse skills as architecture, astrophysics and lead guitar – yet we always forget the milk!
It seems our meat-based computer operates rather differently than our silicone-based cousins. They can recall everything perfectly (if you tell them to) yet find it a lot harder to be nuanced and subtle, poetic or virtuosic. Everything our mind does seems approximate and even vague, depending on our focus and requires a lot of repetition to forge the desired neural pathways. There’s the old musicians’ joke; what’s the difference between a drummer and a drum machine? You only have to punch the information into the drum machine once.
So what happens when silicone and meat supercomputers meet? The brain realizes the immense power of the chip and begins pounding instructions and content in until the cows come home (on well-worn neural pathway-like cow-tracks). Highly focused people – lawyers, marketers, programmers – have filled our digital world with unfathomable amounts of information that they expect us to read and understand, while we seem much happier giggling at cute kittens or piglets wearing gumboots.
We now have a bit of a problem. I believe we are all beginning to suffer from attention deficit disorder. With a supply of information so vast that we can never hope to absorb a fraction of what we would like to, we have all become habitual skimmers, scanners and non-readers. When was the last time you actually read and understood the terms and conditions before ticking the box saying that you had? How often do you triple-check your important emails before sending them off? How many days did you spend analyzing every phone plan on offer, before confidently choosing the right one? What about software licence agreements? Insurance policies? “What, no flood cover!!??”
Closer to home, what about your Website? Did you write and review every single word, or just leave it up to your Web Designer? Whose business is it? If you can’t take the time to write and review it all, why would anyone else bother? What about the “thank you” page when someone registers? What does that say? It is a perfect opportunity to do a bit of PR and build relationships. Ditto any confirmation emails and even invoices. Which is best, a dull “Message submission received” or “Thank you for registering with our new service, we look forward to getting to know you…”?
We need to accept that it is becoming increasingly difficult for all of us to keep up. Our minds work best when they concentrate, so we have to take the time to do just that. One less YouTube video, one more re-read. My business partner, thank heavens, is one of those people who naturally double-checks everything, while I admit I am more the ‘creative’ type who tends to skim, because I am always thinking of the next big idea, but I am learning. Skimming is asking for trouble. Missing important details, making costly mistakes and missing great opportunities, creating embarrassing misunderstandings and often making more work for myself than I thought I was saving by rushing. A short cut is often a long cut.
It’s time to recognize the inherent limitations and great power of our biological computer. Take time, concentrate and get the important stuff right. It makes very good business sense.