Cisco Connected World Techology Report

Over the last few years Cisco have produced a report on the changing attitude of people to being permanently connected.

This years report – 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report – has just been released. The report is based on two surveys, one looking into the attitudes of Gen Y, and the other looking at the attitude of IT Professionals.

At the heart of this year’s study is the smartphone and the constant connectivity it provides to work, entertainment, shopping, and friends. There are 206 bones in the human body, and the smartphone should be considered the 207th bone for Generation Y. They view smartphones as an appendage to their beings — an indispensable part of their lives, and yet they are concerned about data management and Internet security.

Who knew that 43% of British Gen Y always check there smart-phone as part of their morning ritual alongside brushing there teeth? It wasn’t much of a surprise to me having seen how many of them check their smart phone while stood at the latrine at work! The French are far less bothered about such things with only 29% always checking. It’s interesting that women are significantly more driven to be connected with 85% of them being compulsive checkers; it’s only 63% of men.

There’s a fun visualisation that enables you to calculate your data footprint, I apparently have a highly connected lifestyle. As you might expect there’s also a report highlighting some of the statistics and drawing some conclusions along with the seemingly mandatory set of Infographics including an interactive one showing the results for the different countries that took part.

The world is changing fast, there are a lot of people who don’t realise how fast.

Post 1000: Thinking about thinking, the brain and information addiction

Today is my birthday, it also happens to be the day on which I have reached 1000 posts, so it seems like a good time to reflect a bit on previous post themes.

Morecombe Bay SunsetWe are currently going through a revolution that is being fuelled by technology but is primarily a social and economic change.

I first posted about this back in 2006 when I started with a couple of posts:

Both of these posts put forward the view that the people we are going to need in the new economy are people who are versatile generalists and people who are creative. In other words we are going to move from a left-brain economy to a right-brain one, at least in the traditional developed economies. This, in turn will make the brain ever more important.

I have a nagging fear and it’s this: The brain is ever more important yet we make people work in ways and subject them to technologies for which we really have no idea of their impact. In other words, I worry that we will, in years to come, see employees suing their employer for the damage that they have received through the impact of current technology much like we have seen mine workers receiving compensation for the impact of their chosen trade on them.

I worry that the millions of people constantly being interrupted by Facebook and Twitter are doing themselves unseen and yet to be understood damage.

We are already starting to know about some of the impacts and they are concerning.

It’s already accepted wisdom that people’s attention span is shorter than it used to be. In a post from 2010 Nicholas Carr stated that The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.

There’s impacts such as information addiction are starting to be documented, researched and understood. But we are only at the beginning of that journey. I know of a number of young people who rarely leave their bedrooms and think nothing about putting in 10 hours solid on a particular game. I know of people who can’t go for more than a few seconds without having to check-in to one or other of the social media networks. Anyone else heard the phrase Facebook widower?

Then there are impacts such as the drive to multitask even though we are awful at it and it causes us all sorts of problems. One of the more popular posts on this blog is entitled

“Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy”. I wrote that post back in 2008 and then Walter Kirn estimated that workers wasted 28 percent of their time "dealing with multitasking related transitions and interruptions". Multitasking has become a huge epidemic everything from the woman who was driving behind me yesterday while on the phone (in her hand) and doing her lipstick through to the conference calls which you know would only take 10 minutes if everyone just concentrated.

There is immerging evidence to show that the brain of digital natives is different to that of digital immigrants like myself, but do we know that’s a good thing?

There’s also the physical impact that I know a number of people are already experiencing, I explain my experience with in blogs about Tension Headaches. There’s also the current conversation and research on the dangers of sitting for long periods of time.

It’s time to look after ourselves and especially to look after our brain.

(I was amazed how much I had written on this subject once I started looking into it, but I’ve kept the post short because I know how short an attention span you all have Smile)

The New Work-Life Balance

A few weeks ago I wrote a post describing how Friday was no longer the end of the working week.

Well it’s also true to say that 5:30 (or 6:00 or 6:30) is no longer the end of the working day.

Jimmy and Granddad Explore the Lake DistrictFor most people, myself included, the end of the working day is not marked by the point at which you leave an office or walk away from a screen.

However much we’d like to be able to put our life into little boxes, we don’t work that way. I can’t make myself only think about work things at work anymore than I can make my brain only think about leisure things when I’m not working. I try to minimise it by making notes, or adding things to lists, so that I can focus on the area that I need to be focussing at a given time, but I can’t completely compartmentalise.

I don’t have a big switch in my head that turns it from work mode to home mode “Engage work mode” “Work mode engaged”.

Dilbert.com

Keeping a work-life balance cannot be about hours, it has to be about focus and attention. When I’m “working” I’m focussing on my work, when I’m not I’m trying to focus on something else. Focussing on something else, of course, requires me to have something else to focus on – that’s the lesson of cognitive surplus.

The level of focus is now the way that I measure my work-life balance. Too much focus on work and it’s a problem. It’s not the volume of hours, it’s the level of focus and attention. I can cope with my mind reminding me of something I was supposed to do at work, or even of fashioning a good idea in my leisure time, but I’m unlikely to let myself get dragged deep into research on  the thing I’ve thought about.

Just this weekend I thought about a good way of visualising a problem I was trying to get my head around. I took out a note pad and pen scribbled it down in a few minutes and then forgot about it until today. I could have taken the idea and built it into a fully fledged resolution to the issue, but I wasn’t going to let my weekend be dominated by it.

Like many companies my employer requires me to book my time to particular activities. Fortunately I only have to book my time on a day-by-day basis, I don’t have to account for each bit of each day. If I did it would like quite odd, and very random with 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there. That’s the nature of my job. If there were a good way of measuring focus it would be a better way of measuring my contribution.

Personally I don’t measure the hours as part of my work-life balance – I measure the attention. Too much attention on work and I take steps to make sure that I have other attentions outside of work.

Being a bit of an information addict, I need to recognise that focus requires me to remove the distractions. You’ll have noticed, if you were watching, that my twitter activities have dropped off significantly (almost to nothing) over the last week. They had become a distraction and needed tackling, my contribution may increase, but for now I’m keeping away.

Friday is no longer the end of the working week

Once upon a time office workers would go to work on Monday morning, do their hours in a set pattern each day ( to 5) through to Friday. On a set time on Friday the weekend would begin and no work would be done until the appropriate time on Monday morning.

San Francisco Bay in the MistFor myself and many others  this is no longer the case. 9 to 5 is dead and Friday is no longer the end of the working week.

The problem with this situation is that for many people there is no break at all – work just carries on.  With the office no longer working as the barrier to work, work can carry on anywhere, work creeps into every corner of our lives.

Whether we like it, or not, we each have the responsibility for creating the boundaries that all of us need to allow us to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Very few employers are going to do that for us, they’ve moved that responsibility down to the individual.

So I’ve decided that I am going to reinforce some boundaries to keep the work at bay.

As part of my own boundary creation I’ve recently set my BlackBerry to turn off in the early evening, and I’ve been trying my hardest to leave it turned off. I’m about to invest in a personal mobile phone to make it even less likely for me to need to turn it on.

I’ve also made it a rule that unless absolutely necessary I will not work on a Saturday or Sunday. “Absolutely necessary” is not something I have defined in too much detail, but I think I know what it is. I know that other colleagues work weekends, because they send me emails. Sometimes they expect a response, but they are learning that it’s not likely to come from me unless they manage to get my attention and communicate it as “absolutely necessary”. Sometimes I worry that I might be regarded in some way as not pulling my weight, but I remind myself that it’s about quality and quantity of output, it’s not about the hours spent on the job.

My next boundary creation project is to define what my evening demarcation is.

The need for exposure

You can find me on twitter, facebook, external blogs, internal blogs, search engines, commenting on other people’s blogs and posts. I’m on linkedin, delicious, and flickr.

Why?

The Road to InverarayI update my status via twitter, and let it update facebook, and linkedin.

Why?

Well as an information addict, one of the reasons is exposure. I want people to know that I know something.

In my last post I talked about the quest for useful information and how it wasn’t enough just to have information, the information had to be useful to someone. By extending the number of people who know that I know something I broaden my net of usefulness.

The joy of getting responses is very powerful.

If I post something and someone responds then I’ve been useful to them. if I post a comment and someone follows on, then I’ve been useful.

So here I am, doing it again, exposing something to see if it’s useful to someone and hoping for a response.

All addiction has an element of risk and reward to it. If I risk something I may, or may not, get the reward. If I gamble then I risk some money on the hope that occasionally I might get a reward. If I reveal some information I might get a rewarding response, but it’s a gamble. If I look at my email I may or may not be rewarded with an email.

I’ve written in a bit more detail on this before using the term Infomania.

I’m currently trying a new experiment to reduce the impacts of these feelings. I’ve set up the auto on/off feature on my Blackberry and have taken to leaving it at home if I go out in an evening. On the first few occasions I had the Blackberry twitch, wanting to check whether I had anything to check, but these are steadily reducing as I train my brain to realise that there are no rewards available.

As I look around I see many people experiencing what I’m experiencing, but not realising that it’s an issue. One of the reasons I’m writing is to see whether my experiences resonate with anyone else, so I hope it’s helping. There is a danger in doing this though, and that is that I just end up feeding the addiction that I am seeking to understand. It’s a journey that I’m heading on.