Managing Product Management Distractions

Last week while reading email, answering IM , viewing Twitter stream, looking at a text message from my son, reviewing a clients LinkedIn profile, answering a call and trying to focus on product management tasks, Bob Corrigan, sent a response to an earlier tweet I had posted. “Does technology distract (#prodmgmt & #prodmktg) from being effective? via @BrightInnovate http://bit.ly/npMUNJ #business #success,”

Bob responded with the following: “There’s not enough characters in a tweet to document the distractions that plague product management. Twitter is one.”

In thinking about his response, How can product management and product marketing manage distractions?

Information Overload – in their recent post The Age of Distraction, by Bright InnovationsCathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University was highlighted. Watch the video in the post, then link to her interview in Fast Company.  Dr. Davidson shares, “Going all the way back to Socrates, attention is the problem people most become aware of when a new technology arises. There’s no such thing as lack of distraction — we’ve always been filtering. But new technology puts stress on our old, automatic ways of paying attention.”

Placing your smart device aside for a minute, product professionals must find new ways to learn or re-learn how to pay attention, cope and deflect the onslaught of new technologies and information that distract us. As “product” oriented creatures, we grasp and often drool over the newest innovations and usually jump on-board and test drive new solutions. By a show of hands or a +1, how many of you are using Google+ ? Add one to your count for me.

Like a moth lured to a bug zapper, product professionals are often consumed with the latest and greatest gadgets. Why? I believe it’s a combination of our technology heritage, our desire to associate with innovation, our need to understand and validate markets, our willingness to test positioning and find new ways to sift through the daily noise to truly collaborate. Or perhaps we just want to hang out with the cool kids. Either way, how do we manage the onslaught and use this to our advantage?

(Re)Learning and Adapting – Every time a new technology emerges, I evaluate how it will impact me personally and what benefits I see. While I don’t perform a personalSWOT, I do consider my current and future needs, habits, desired changes, interest, working environment and how it could influence and improve collaboration.

Dr. Davidson argues “that we’re at the perfect moment to begin re-imagining our institutions and developing practices to deal with the onslaught of information, the reality of constant connectedness, and the challenges of global collaboration.”

While some of you might question technologies role as we adapt and change, the business world we live in continues to move from it’s industrialized heritage to one that is formed on collaboration, openness and information. These three elements can guide and influence better decisions, but only if we manage the distractions they present. Product management and product marketing have to transition with it or lose credibility and value because of it.

Grasp Collaboration, not Technology – While technology can be a vehicle for collaboration, there’s a larger processor in the world (our collective knowledge) that will guide this change. To make and support the transitions to a collaborative state, the following questions should be considered:

  • Does my business style and personality lend to or take away from a collaborative culture?
  • How do I currently collaborate?
  • What styles and methods of collaboration does my organization use and does it complement or hinder mine?
  • Do I value technology over conversation and collaboration?

By honestly asking and contemplating these questions, we can relearn and adapt to manage day-to-day distractions and improve as product professionals through collaboration.

Dealing with Distractions – I’ll be the first to admit that I overuse and often abuse collaborative technologies. Whether they’re in my hand, sitting on my desk, in my home, the solutions I use should have a dual purpose. One is to support me internally. This is the work and business side. The other is the external. The connection that allow me to share ideas, express my thoughts, collaborate with professional peers, ask questions and learn. If used correctly, one will benefit the other. So, what can we do to better manage the distractions? Here’s some things I do:

  • Limit the amount of time spent on non-work collaboration. I schedule blocks of time.
  • Be “out of the office” or “offline” when you really need to limit distractions.
  • Practice the Art of Saying No.
  • Forward my office phone to my mobile phone and silence the ringer of turn it off.
  • Skip a meeting and see if anyone notices. If they don’t, unofficially un-invite yourself.

Some other ways to limit distractions from Dr. Davidson’s book, “Now You See It” include:

  • Plan offline interruptions into your day, whether a walk at lunch or a face-to-face meeting.
  • Within your workplace, colleagues should have the ability to “hole up” solo or together on a project, free from constant connection to the rest of the world.
  • A tip from designer Aza Raskin: Try reserving separate screens, or even separate devices, for Facebook, Twitter, and other distractors. If they’re in separate rooms, even better.
  • Get into the habit of tagging complex matters to be discussed later, in real time. Davidson sends her colleagues emails with the subject line “Agenda”; at their weekly conference call, she’ll search her email for the term and — presto! — a list of items to discuss pops up.
  • If chronically distracted, look below the surface. “We complain about email interference,” she says, “but the two most distracting things in any human life are emotional upset and physical discomfort — heartache and heartburn.”

At the end of the day, we have to decide if the distractions will manage us or if we will manage them. Feel free to provide some insights and experiences on how you manage distraction. If you enjoyed the post, please share it:Managing Product Management Distractions – a new post by @jim_holland http://wp.me/pXBON-2Jz #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership #in

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