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Developing attention at work and overcoming biases


In this article we look at the importance of attention.  It takes about one minute to read.  There is also a great TED Talks about the neuroscience of attention by Jean-Philippe Lachaux, which takes 17 minutes to view.

A student asked a Zen master what the most important thing in life is.  He replied “attention”.  The student replied “there must be something more!”  The master replied “attention, attention”.  “Surely there is more master?” the student replied to which the master said “attention, attention, attention”.

TheTED explores how we have strong brain patterning which makes us focus on certain things more strongly than others.  For example we focus on flashing lights, the things we have learnt to like and away from the things we dislike.  When we look at a picture for the first time our eyes dart from one piece of information to the next.  We scan the picture in a way that we have learnt to scan in the past.

The danger with re enforcing these existing patterns is that we may be missing important signals from the world around us.  Because we are drawn to exciting visual images we may, for example, have too many applications open at one time.  This can fatigue our executive function (the command and control centre of the brain) so that when we are in quiet learning environments or have little visual stimulus around us we get bored easily and become disengaged.  This has an adverse affect on our health, wellbeing, our ability to learn new things and our ability to attend to great detail.

Having too much distraction around us also embeds old habits and brain patterning.  To navigate an increasingly busy world we tend to do more and more auto pilot environment scanning.  We seek out the most stimulating things we can see with our eyes and may over look important points.  In the world of finance and law this heightened distraction may mean that it is harder for us to pay attention to long, dry and detailed reports.

Our advice on how to strengthen the executive function :

  • Remove clutter and focus on one thing at a time
  • Practice mindfulness – for example attend a mindfulness course or download an App like Headspace
  • Develop practices within the office to enable colleagues to enter and remain in a FLOW state
  • Reduce the number of applications you have open at one time
  • Remove physical clutter from home and work spaces
  • Try new things – for example drive to work in a different way or go to a different coffee shop

This is the TED by Jean-Philippe Lachaux,