There is much accepted wisdom in business management and leadership. However, many so-called truisms aren’t so true, and plenty of apparent wisdom turns out to be not so wise after all.
The illustrate this, Tony Schwartz uses the HBR.org Blog Network to explode four destructive myths that most companies still live by.
The first myth is that multitasking is essential in a world of infinite demand.
Schwartz says: “This myth is based on the assumption that human beings are capable of doing two cognitive tasks at the same time. We’re not. Instead, we learn to move rapidly between tasks. When we’re doing one, we’re actually not even aware of the other.”
This process incurs something called “switching time” – the time it takes to shift from one cognitive activity to another.
According to researcher David Meyer, switching time increases the the length of the primary task by an average of 25%. Therefore, juggling tasks is inefficient, and it’s important to focus and cut out distractions. To that end, Schwartz warns against bosses insisting that their people constantly check their email.
The second myth is that a little anxiety helps us to perform better. On the contrary, says Schwartz – the more anxious we are, the less clearly and imaginatively we are able to think, and the more reactive and impulsive we are.
That is an undesirable position to be in for someone with a supervisory role.
Myth number three is that creativity is a genetically inherited gift that cannot be taught. As Schwartz points out, many CEOs don’t think of themselves as creative and believe the skill to be somehow magical. However, the creative process is systematic and teachable, and people can in fact learn to generate original ideas.
The fourth and final myth is that the best way to increase productivity is through working longer hours.
“No single myth is more destructive to employers and employees than this one,” says Schwartz. “The reason is that we’re not designed to operate like computers – at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time.”
Schwartz insists that “intermittent renewal” is far preferable to burning down the “energy reservoir” as the day goes on. He recommends strategically alternating periods of intense focus with intermittent renewal every 90 minutes or so, making it possible to get more done in less time and in a sustainable manner.
Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By
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