Reduce Masking Distractions
This Domain-Level Guide is designed to be used based on the Core Model. Please refer to the Reduce Masking Distractions Core Practice before exploring this guide.
Modern organizations often expect their employees to be available and responsive to real-time communication. Even if this expectation is limited to business hours, it can come at the expense of bandwidth for mindful Observation and processing of collected experiences. As valuable as communication is, Creativity also requires time for deep processing and distraction-less explorations.
To set the ground for improving Observation, you need to Reduce Real-Time Digital Communication on the one hand and create alternative Offline Communication Channels on the other. An additional aspect of Reducing Distractions is Being a Buffer.
Reduce Real-Time Digital Communication
Communication and specifically real-time communication are excellent sources of Creativity. They enable the exchange of experiences, observations, insights, and ideas. At the same time, digital communication means can quickly become a distraction and create the opposite effect.
To enable deeper Observation and discovery of unexpected insights, you need to reduce Masking Distractions to the minimum. Many real-time communication channels fall into that category. When your team manages to reduce such communication channels, they gain more bandwidth for mindful exploration and accidental discoveries.
- Identify methods of communication that reduce attention and undermine natural flow.
- Reduce such interaction methods to the necessary minimum.
- Explicitly favor offline communication or face-to-face communication (where it is not intrusive).
Create Offline Communication Channels and Communication Islands
To be able to reduce Real-Time Digital Communication, you need to create effective alternatives. Any communication channel that is less intrusive and favors offline responses will increase the Observation and processing bandwidth. As a side effect, such communication channels are likely to promote a more profound exchange of ideas instead of prompt responses.
- Actively promote offline communication as opposed to real-time digital communication.
- Create channels that support such communication mode.
- Define Communication Islands for promoting face-to-face interactions. This is especially important when working in a remote mode, as physical interactions are not possible, and digital interaction is the default operating mode.
- Create a culture that promotes focus and attention as opposed to total responsiveness and frequent context-switching.
Be a Buffer for Incoming Requests
Team leaders have a unique role in Reducing Distractions as they can act as a buffer and block, or at least filter, external interruptions.
Many teams have external interfaces within the organization that can break the flow of work with unplanned requests and queries. Even if most of them will indeed have to be handled eventually, you should try to avoid breaking the flow by addressing them as they arrive. The team leader can do that by being the first to manage such requests, prioritize them, and add them to the team’s backlog to be addressed at the right time.
As always, there is a need for balance. You should not isolate the team from the external world. Interactions with other stakeholders are essential, and sometimes dropping your current task and addressing an external request can even benefit from a Creativity perspective. Acting as a buffer does not mean blocking every external interaction — it means helping the team find that balance.
- Be an active buffer for your team for external requests.
- Address incoming requests by prioritizing them and finding the right time to handle them (either on a per case basis or by helping the team define guidelines for addressing such requests).
- Help the team find the balance between direct responses to external requests and the need to maintain flow and focus.
Messaging applications that are based on (or create the expectation of) prompt responses and real-time availability may impact the attention span of your team. There are other platforms like Twist or Confluence that enable collaboration while favoring non-real-time communication.
Eventually, though, it is up to the leaders to set the expectation and lead by example. Even platforms designed for real-time communication can be toned down with certain configurations and a lot of mindset work. Of course, the opposite is also true: you can abuse any offline communication channel and send an implicit or explicit message that you expect maximum responsiveness.
Turning off notifications and setting explicit time frames for responding to emails, messages, and any other need that might break the flow of work is a simple and effective method for Reducing Masking Distractions. The benefit of this method is that it does not require any change of platforms and tools. It only requires a mindset change and the space to delay responses to some extent.