Through my experience in consulting with organizations on the future of the workplace, I witness an alarming (but hardly surprising) trend. Many of today’s “knowledge workers” are over-scheduled and find it difficult to focus at work. The continuous drive for higher levels productivity pushes people to work faster and in a more fragmented way. That is, work pushes people to continuously subdivide their mental capabilities across a wider range of tasks. In other words, it necessitates greater levels of ineffective multitasking. “Knowledge work” is the creation of value from ideas. It requires people to continuously perform a variety of cognitive tasks:
- Access raw information
- Absorb and understand information
- Process and derive meaning from information
- Express and communicate meaning as new knowledge
In today’s workplace, information floods peoples’ minds and commands their ever-shortened attention spans. Ubiquitous information has become a commodity. Immediate access displaces generative richness. The increasing speed at which people are expected to access and absorb information does not always align with the pace at which their minds are equipped to process it and express meaningful insight from it. Organizations benefit from balancing short-term and long-term goals and priorities. Yet the ever-increasing expectations for speed reflect a bias toward short-term needs at the expense of the deliberative pursuit of long-term opportunities. The flood of ubiquitous information causes a collective tunnel vision that puts people and organizations in a reactive mode. This comes with risks. People face potential burnout and fatigue from the inability to draw meaning from everything they are expected to process, and organizations sacrifice innovative ideas that create long-term opportunities.
By aligning with the growing cultural trend known as the Slow Movement, I advocate for a Slow Work Movement. Just as Slow Food creates community among the growers, producers, and consumers of food – Slow Work is a call to rediscover a path to value creation through work environments that nurture a deeper connection between people and their ideas. Instead of working on a trajectory that leads to nothing but creative destruction and waste, I argue for work practices that build creative resilience – a sort of cradle-to-cradle philosophy of creating value that can be repurposed after its useful life has ended.
In the Press
True to its name, “Slow Work” is an evolving concept whose meaning I am shaping over time. The concept has generated interest in the press, which has provided me with venues through which to refine the concept.
Hurricane Sandy Shows It’s Time to Embrace Workplace Flexibility in TIME.com
‘Slow Work’ Theory is Slowly Gaining Ground in Workforce.com
Slow and Steady Slays the Antelope and Wins the Rat Race in Workforce.com
Work Slower, Produce More? in CFO.com
Go Ahead, Take a Long Lunch: Robots Can’t Take our Jobs in The Los Angeles Times
Slow Down! How “Slow Work” Makes Us More Productive in TIME.com
Slow Down. Savour Your Work in The Globe and Mail
Workers Better Slow and Steady, or Speed Demons? in Fox Business-Small Business Center