In Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (Wiley, Feb.), author Joseph McCormack provides strategies tailored to the current era of shrinking attention spans (from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to an average of eight seconds in 2012), when half of all employees report that they cannot work longer than 15 minutes without getting distracted and that they are interrupted approximately every eight minutes. McCormack, founder of The BRIEF Lab, previously developed curriculum for U.S. Army Special Operations Command and counts Harley-Davidson and MasterCard among his clients. He spoke to PW about the time, money, and resources that can be lost when employees fail to cut to the chase. His answers, of course, were brief.
Why are our attention spans shrinking so quickly?
We are drinking from an information fire hose and there’s only so much we can handle. Attention spans sink under that pressure.
In most things, the pendulum swings back and forth. Do you think that in the future we will regain some attention span?
Probably not. Brevity will become an essential 21st-century skill for people to adapt.
Are there situations where brevity is not appropriate?
There’s a time and place for long conversations. Brainstorming is one such moment, when it’s okay to let your words run on. In most cases, however, being brief shows discipline, confidence, and respect for people’s time.
What are you working on next?
To show that brevity is a business basic like punctuality, critical thinking, and persistence. I’m making it my mission to explain how brevity can lead to more strategic conversations, deeper insights, and better decisions.