Note: This is a repost of a previous blog as-is with a clearer title and a picture that led me to a AHA moment.
It has long been said that technology is not a cure for human fallibility. In this blog post, I delve upon one of the leading causes for human fallibilities – the overhead associated with emotional “buffer overflow” and “context switch”.
Image source: Twitter user @phil_wade
In a computing system, a context switch occurs when the operating system and the CPU swaps out processes or threads to execute other processes or threads. Context switches are a result of “scarce availability” of a “shared resource”. Did I mention context switches are costly? Well, you guessed it – they are very expensive and they result in decreased throughput and increased latency. Much of performance optimization revolves around minimizing the cost associated with the transition from one task to another – essentially trying to nullify the impact of a context switch.
Turns out, the human brain is no different. In fact, the cost is not only profound but also non-deterministic making it worse than context switches in a computing system. Where this gets even more complicated is how emotion and logic interweave to create an unpredictable outcome in human behavior. That’s one of the reasons, being busy is actually counter-productive, as paradoxical as it may sound. And if I may add, the goals of ensuring productivity and infusing creativity are orthogonal. You can only acheive a trade-off. You cannot maximize both at the same time.
Being busy is actually counter-productive, as paradoxical as it may sound. Productivity is inversely proportional to creativity.
As much as the world has focused on “work-life” balance, what we really need is “work-work” balance so that the emotional, intellectual and cognitive state can be effectively “swapped out” between work transitions. We achieve optimal levels of performance by restoring the brain to a state of ‘tabula rasa’ (the absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined biases, void of any innate prejudice). This is rarely the case in most situations. A system designed to ensure maximum productivity can result in “buffer overflows” of emotional reactions and decision fatigue that prove detrimental to achieving peak performance.
As much as the world has focused on “work-life” balance, what we really need is “work-work” balance so that the emotional, intellectual and cognitive state can be effectively “swapped out” between work transitions.
A carryover of emotional state from one event to another has side-effects on objectivity. Objectivity requires the mind to be in a state of equilibrium and dispassion. The digital world further exposes us to multiple channels of distractions drastically reducing our focus. Every distraction is a context switch and every context switch in turn has a disastrous effect on performance.
Objectivity requires the mind to be in a state of equilibrium and dispassion.
It is upon Digital Workplace leaders to create an environment where human beings can achieve peak performance through a positive interplay of cognition, creativity and emotion, all working in perfect harmony. Such an environment will ensure that every task is performed with the objectivity (reason) and subjectivity (intuition) tailored to the current task at hand, not leftovers from previous endeavors.
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