Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Multi-tasking: The inverted U-shape of productivity

this from the ACM technews today:

How IT Makes Johnny More Productive

Computerworld (02/26/07) Malymuka, Kathleen

Marshall Van Alstyne won the award for best paper at the International Conference on Information Systems in December for his pioneering research into the effects of IT use on productivity at the individual desktop level. By measuring dollars generated, contracts executed, and start and stop dates of projects, compared with what IT applications employees were using, Alstyne found that overall, increased IT use resulted in decreased speed, but multitaskers, though slower at completing individual tasks, were found to be more productive overall. The relationship between multitasking and productivity appears as "an inverted U-shape," according to Alstyne, where productivity increases to a point of multitasking, then begins to wane as multitasking increases past this point. His advice is to cultivate IT skills, but to be aware of "your limits." Emailing and databases were found to facilitate multitasking most efficiently. A social networking statistic called "betweenness" was measured by observing the frequency that someone appears in the shortest communication path between two other people. Another indicator dubbed "reach" was found by measuring the number of people that a worker talks to and then the number of people they talk to. Increased betweenness and reach were both found to be related to increased productivity. Alstyne recommends that businesses "invest in IT skills. High IT skill levels reduce the perception of information overload and facilitate multitasking, which is directly associated with increases in revenue."
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