I had an interesting piece of work kindly passed on to me recently, following a shout out I posted on LinkedIn. I was asking for people to provide me with any links to articles on the potential dangers/disadvantages of social media use in the workplace for my dissertation topic. I had some excellent responses but one of the most thought provoking was sent to me by Adrian (Mac) Mackay, managing partner of Duncan Alexander & Wilmshurst.
He was discussing the potential problems of "permanent partial attention" within organisations. This is the phenomena whereby information is passed backwards and forwards between individuals at such a rate that nothing ever gets dealt with in a single-minded and focused manner. We all know the scenario where one employee e-mails another and copies in two or three other members of staff. They then respond, also copying in two or three members of staff who may or may not be relevant to the issue being discussed. This basically sets off a cascade of e-mail traffic which serves to accomplish little other that clogging up everyone's inbox.
The increase in the use of social media, if not managed correctly can also contribute to this "information overload" effect. Communications and networking utilities such as e-mail and Twitter have the power to transform our lives for the better if used correctly and with a certain level of discipline. I feel, however, that used incorrectly they threaten to overwhelm us in a sea of spam, jokes, motivational sound-bites and social media updates. Just think, when you get in to the office in the morning how long does it take you, once you have switched your computer on, to actually start work on anything productive? By the time you have opened all your e-mails, checked Twitter, LinkedIn and any blogs you follow is it time for your mid-morning coffee? As the influence of these media in our lives grows we need to learn new disciplines to control the rate at which we process all this new information. Next time you send that e-mail just think again before you copy in your boss, your secretary, your solicitor, your social media consultant,etc. Do they really need to see this piece of information or am I just adding to the digital cacophony?
For more information and assistance with using social media in a productive manner you could do worse than contact ‘Mac’ at Duncan Alexander and Wilmshurst, Management and Marketing Consultants – www.daw.co.uk