While I wait for my notes from last week’s HBS class to be shipped back to me so that I can share some of the insights I gained, a colleague of mine forwarded me this excellent article of how most of us have No Time To Think. Jack makes the point that we’ve become “a world of reactors, not thinkers” and that technology exacerbates this problem, rather than helping. [How can I argue? As I write this, both my desk and cell phone have rung and at least 5 new emails have shown up in my inbox.]
Jack also argues that distractions cause people to head in the wrong direction. To illustrate his point, he tells the following story from his days at GE:
I was in a conference room with a crusty old marketing manager and describing a strategy to sell more electric motors. He was not looking at my flip chart. He was looking out the window. Suddenly, he noticed my discomfort. He said, “Kid, put that presentation away. Our problem isn’t out there in the market–it’s here in this building. Show me a presentation that can get every son-of-a-bitch in this building pointed in the same direction, and we can flatten anything out there.” It’s a lesson I never forgot.
Although he doesn’t use the term, he’s talking about lack of alignment. We should all take a few minutes every day to think about whether we’re heading in the right direction or just reacting to what’s around us. Focus on outcomes, not activities.