For those who find it tough to juggle more than a couple things at once, don’t despair. The brain is set up to manage two tasks, but not more, a new study suggests.
That’s because, when faced with two tasks, a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. This division of labor allows a person to keep track of two tasks pretty readily, but if you throw in a third, things get a bit muddled.
“What really the results show is that we can readily divide tasking. We can cook, and at the same time talk on the phone, and switch back and forth between these two activities,” said study researcher Etienne Koechlin of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. “However, we cannot multitask with more than two tasks.”
The results will be published this week in the journal Science.
» via Live Science
Thee best practice guidelines mentioned in the article below are guidelines that can be applied not only in a corporate setting, but socially as well. You can share, teach and show everything to a co-worker and in turn, get nothing. Zero results, no improvement and sometimes not even a thank you….
If you’re interested in getting more from meetings than a gaping sinkhole in your schedule—and who isn’t?—these tips from how Google handles meetings can help. Of great importance is focusing on data, not politics and grievances.
Photo by ghindo.
The folks over at Business Week interviewed Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice-president of search products, who is known for running a tight and effective meeting. She shared six great guidelines for holding an effective meeting including one of her long standing rules: “Don’t politic, use data.”
This idea can and should apply to meetings in organizations in which people feel as though the boss will give the green light to a design created by the person he or she likes the best, showing favoritism for the individual instead of the idea.
Mayer believes this mindset can demoralize employees, so she goes out of her way to make the approval process a science. Google chooses designs on a clearly defined set of metrics and how well they perform against those metrics. Designs are chosen based on merit and evidence, not personal relationships.
Mayer discourages using the phrase “I like” in design meetings, such as “I like the way the screen looks.” Instead, she encourages such comments as “The experimentation on the site shows that his design performed 10% better.” This works for Google, because it builds a culture driven by customer feedback data, not the internal politics that pervade so many of today’s corporations.
It’s far more effective to look at what the data says than it is to let a meeting turn into a whine-fest where your whole team is taken away from productive work to hear the less-than-happy members complain. Check out the rest of the article at Business Week to see some more of Mayer’s techniques, including holding office hours—a carryover from her days as a professor.
Have a strategy you use in your workplace for increasing the effectiveness of meetings? Let’s hear about it in the comments.
Send an email to Jason Fitzpatrick, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My favorite behavioral science website, BPS Research Digest, posted a summary of an amazingly weird and rather troubling psychological experiment. The upshot is that people —- both men and women —- vary in testosterone levels and (no surprise), when people with high testosterone levels aren’t in leadership positions, “they can find it stressful and uncomfortable when denied the status that they crave.” A bit more surprising is that the reverse is true as well, that “people low in testosterone find it uncomfortable to be placed in positions of authority.” The main finding from the research is that when groups suffer from “mismatch” between status and testosterone levels (where those with high testosterone levels are placed at the bottom of the pecking order, and those with low levels are placed at the top), the group has less confidence in its abilities get things done. I quote from the BPS summary:
Michael Zyphur and colleagues assigned 92 groups of between 4 and 7 undergrads to an on-going task that involved meeting twice a week for 12 weeks, and included creating a professional management-training video. Six weeks into the project the researches measured the participants’ testosterone levels via saliva samples. They also asked all members in each group to vote on each others’ status. Then six weeks after that, at the end of the project, the researchers measured each group’s collective efficacy by summing members’ confidence in their group’s ability to succeed.
The key finding was that groups made up of members whose status was out of synch with their testosterone level tended to have the lowest collective efficacy. The researchers think that testosterone-status mismatch within a group probably has a detrimental effect on that group’s collective confidence. However, another possibility, which they acknowledge, is that a lack of group confidence leads to a mismatch between testosterone levels and status among group members.
The implication is fairly horrifying —- perhaps companies will start using testosterone levels to make decisions about whether or not to put people in leadership positions. Even if it is “evidence-based” (although these results are preliminary), the thought makes me a bit sick.
Here is the reference:
Zyphur, M., Narayanan, J., Koh, G., & Koh, D. (2009). Testosterone–status mismatch lowers collective efficacy in groups: Evidence from a slope-as-predictor multilevel structural equation model. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 110 (2), 70-79.
I actually posted about this article before, but liked what Sutton says and how he wrote about it, so voila!