Block all Interruptions? You Can’t Afford it!

November 17, 2006 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Attention Management | 1 Comment

Just had a great conversation with David Marshak at IBM about presence, attention management, and interruptions. David had a good point that shows the value of thinking in terms of Enterprise Attention Management rather than just personal Attention Managemement. When determining whether an interruption should be allowed, one has to look at the value to the interrupter rather than just a myopic view of the value to the interruptee. If I just need to ask one question to put me on the right path for the next few weeks of work, the company as a whole is better off if I can interupt that person even if it annoys them.

When I talk about Enterprise Attention Management, I refer to the entire system of message senders and receivers. So one goal of EAM is therefore optimizing the system – the grand total of the value of interruptions minus their costs. One needs an Enterprise view to make accurate judgements about interruptions.

Of course, this is theoretical. From a practical point of view there isn’t a useful method for attaching dollars and cents (sense?) to each message and a negotiation on price when it arrives. But it is helpful to think about this at the academic level so that it can be applied in whatever minimal fashion at the desktop. The practical moral of the story is: You may not be able to afford to block all interruptions.


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  1. […] I blogged here and here interruptions cannot be assumed to be evil. Certainly etiquette is part of the answer. […]

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