Attention Span of a Gnat?

This and other derogatory descriptions of the Millennial generation have filled many of the posts in my networking groups. Often the source offering the descriptions belongs to the Boomer crowd. It’s so easy to stand in the comfort of your own state of being and point to another and clearly define THEIR problems and shortcomings. I think most of it is crap. Seriously, look around; look around at the environment and the velocity of work demands we ALL face. Maybe having the concentration agility of a gnat is not such a bad thing.

To be clear, I am a Boomer and hip deep in Millennials every day at work. And it’s a good thing. It’s good because at the rate priorities and projects ebb and flow, the workforce needs to be agile and resilient to keep pace. Velocity and continuous change are attributes of our work environment, and to play in the game you either step up, adapt or update your resume.

The attention span of a gnat? How can that be? I witness my kids (now parents) sit down and binge watch a couple seasons of something on Netflix. Any attempt to intervene and we’d be rolling in the floor fighting over the remote. That’s concentration and commitment as I see it. That points to age as less of a determining factor of the ability to concentrate than something more compelling – engagement.

I believe we all are a product of our environment – our technology. I read an article that touted a Millennial had an average 90-second attention span. What’s that? 140 characters? Give me a break. I’ve not delved into the research because I don’t have time to research. My world moves too quickly. I don’t need to prove a point, and don’t really give a rip. I need to hit my next project milestone. Tick tock. It’s how we live and work. And more importantly, it’s how we learn. Enabling learning at the moment of need preserves continuity of thought and concentration and yes – engagement. That’s my focus…not what generation you’re part of.

Enable learning and support within the workflow. Keep things moving; breaking the chain of concentration to launch a fire safety course in the LMS while my hair is on fire makes no sense. Give me 30-second Stop Drop & Roll clip and then let’s get on with it. That’s not a generational thing; it’s a technology-enabled work environment requirement thing. Keep up with what the technology has enabled or get the hell out of the way. Sorry, my Boomer is showing…

This is not a post about generations and the so-called gaps between them. I don’t have the time nor the energy to go there. This is about doing my job of helping my workforce survive and thrive at their jobs and being productive performers in whatever workforce role claims them…and most often at the Point-of-Work. That means adapting solutions to serve the world of gnat-like attention spans of every generation holding down a job. Take a Millennial to lunch…they’re always hungry for something to eat…and to learn something new.

My 90-seconds have been exceeded…well over in fact…and I need to get back to….Oh look…a chicken!

Gary G. Wise
Performance Strategist
@gdogwise

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  1. February 21, 2017 at 11:37 am

    If you look at engagement, retention, wants, etc. survey’s the results seem to cover all ages – respect, flexibility, inclusion, communication, meaningful work – it is not an age thing, it is a people thing. Oh look, squirrel! 🙂

    • February 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Like micro-learning…not a short attention span solution but a short window of performance opportunity fueled by urgency and risk…further blurring lines between performance support and learning. Getting more seamless every day…and more irrelevant to having to decide which it is…

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