Everyone these days has some form of the distraction disease.
It’s manifested through multi-tasking, reminders to “be in the moment,” and marked (or disguised) inattention to directions. It’s further demonstrated by our focus on all the wrong syllables and cloud-thinking while in the midst of other activities.
Before you bristle and say “that’s not me,” answer a few questions:
- How many times have you checked text or email while idling at a stoplight?
- Do you ever turn off, shut down, or otherwise ignore your constant e-companion … or not answer your cell?
- How often do you wake up from a sound sleep to capture an idea – yes, on paper – at your bedside?
Yeah, you got it: Distraction-it is. As do we. What’s more, our attention span for even leisurely reading or movie watching tends to get shorter and shorter.
To be honest, it’s really not our problem. Just the issue of those colleagues who insist on conducting long meetings and require that way-too-lengthy documents be absorbed.
For those managers, we have the panacea: Serializing. Or breaking up subject matters into discrete information chunks that we can digest while (okay) completing other tasks. Charles Dickens wrote and published his novels in magazines, chapter by chapter. Soap operas and TV sitcoms/rom coms and dramas are, in essence, video serials; we tune in to our weekly 30- or 60-minute fix of Mad Men, Modern Family, and the erudite Masterpiece Theatre, among other sequential stories.
All hold our attention, captivate it even. Water cooler talk swirls around Lord Grantham’s valet Mr. Bates and his “imprison-hood,” or if the HBO series Luck with Dustin Hoffman as ”Ace” Bernstein will ever return.
Why not, then, embrace the serial? A story told well will resonate – and, at least, be remembered. New hires would have access to the series’ “bible” that lists facts and figures, introduces protagonists and antagonists for consistency. It’s available in any medium. [Obviously, the shorter, the better.] It could feature a prequel, a sequel, and, in years to come, revivals. It spotlights distinctive personalities to care about. Installments make easy engagements – and cliffhangers, compelling.
Compared to the daily deluge of emails and PowerPoints and conference calls and meetings, we’d welcome these words: “Please sir, I want some more.”