No, EAM is Not Corporate Ritalin

January 12, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

I noticed a couple of comments connecting my Enterprise Attention Management system with attention deficit disorder. Here’s a few:

FCW.com commented that EAM

“sounds like something you’d hear discussed at a middle-school PTO meeting …I wonder what the strategy was using language that many people will surely associate with attention deficit disorder. Does that make it sound more serious than chronic messy desk syndrome? “

The ecm blog had mentioned a similar thing:

First thing I thought of was Enterprise Attention Deficit Disorder (EADD).

Well, I had actually noticed the connection to ADD / ADHD while doing my research and dedicated a paragraph to it in the full version of my report. I’ve attached the relevant paragraph below, but a quick summary would be that I was trying to explicitly distance EAM from ADD. ADD connects to a powerful meme among parents (and all sorts of easy plays on words about Ritalin and comparing executives to children). But at the risk of sounding humorless, I believe it leads down a path that is not constructive for addressing the difficulty information workers have finding important messages and information and pushing unimportant ones back. There’s nothing necessarily dysfunctional with these people – they just need help given the enormous amount of information present in the enterprise environment.

From my paper “Techniques to Address Attention Fatigue and Info-Stress in the Too-Much-Information Age”:

Psychiatric View

In researching attention management in the workplace, one runs across references to “ADD” or “ADHD” (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; for example, Accenture’s “Overcoming Management Attention Deficit Disorder [MADD]”) and the search for a pill to solve it (“corporate Ritalin”, see examples at Hopelessly Devoted: A Customer Communications Renaissance Customer Inter@ction Solutions by David R Butcher and Advice Line by Bob Lewis). The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Although this connects frazzled multi-tasking with the well-known popular narrative of ADHD as a dysfunctional disorder for children with short attention spans, it does not provide understanding or solutions for EAM. While it is useful at a base level to apply these characteristics to the business world, it does not have significant prescriptive value for the information worker’s response to information overload. The problems addressed by EAM are mostly intentional, controllable, and driven by the worker’s environment. ADHD is mostly defined in the negative, through inattention. EAM takes a positive view, assuming the information workers are functional human beings, and is focused on bringing important messages closer to the user’s awareness and pushing less important messages further away. Indeed, a worker’s ability to be distractible and multi-task may be highly beneficial, as described in the next section.

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