Eric Schmidt of GoogleThis link takes you to a fairly long but fascinating article called Solitude and Leadership, a lecture given to a plebe class at West Point.

It's about what leadership is, and how to learn to think for yourself. It cautions the students about multitasking, and not taking the time to think about things and how they feel. Know thyself, he pleads, before you can make leadership decisions. Interesting comments about bureaucracies, too.

Found this by following Eric Schmidt, CEO Google, on Twitter. Excellent tweets, recommending various articles. A verified account.

AL Corwin writes:

What a great article! It rings true on every level in a way that is very rare. The piece itself is a great example of the kind of thought it seeks to advance.

My favorite part was about how multi-tasking gets in the way of being good at multi-tasking. I read a couple of years ago that tests show that people who are doing two things at once only perform forty percent as well on the best of the two tasks as they can do when they focus on a single task. This article shows that that problem is just the tip of the iceberg.

In particular, the author makes a compelling case that multi-tasking actually interferes with the thinking process. It's almost impossible to really think about more than one thing at a time, and it is particularly difficult to think in the company of others. Unless you can think your way to knowing what is right, you will never be in a position to stand up for what is right. Thinking is a solitary activity even when you do it with other people. I hadn't thought about it quite that way before.

I find myself wondering if there are several different kinds of multi-taskers. One type is really doing more than one thing at a time, and another is really doing one thing only. There may be other things going on in the second environment, but the person is totally focused on one activity and then another. I am not saying this well, but it seems like some people multi-task in a serial fashion and others are really operating on multiple channels.

To play the devil's advocate for multi-tasking, I would argue that some forms of expertise are in fact multi-tasking. The people that are good at these chores have lots of things that they do on a subconscious level. When anyone starts on these complex tasks, they need to pay attention to everything which is overwhelming. As they become pros, many chores and actions become automatic enough so that the expert may not even realize what they are doing.

So what is multi-tasking? Walking and chewing gum? Shooting a someone while flying a plane? Thinking about sex while trying to drive? Maybe the answer is that focus is good, but simple multi-tasking is okay. I find that my imagination roams the most when I go for a drive, but may not be the best for those along my route.



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