When Opportunity Knocks

When opportunity knocks, answer the door! This seems like simple advice but all too often we do not follow it. Why? Sometimes, we’re just not paying attention. At other times, we see the opportunity but focus more on the possibility of failure than success.

Moroccan Door

Oscar Wilde once said, “A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.” I’ve never been a pessimist but I will admit to having been a little bit hard of hearing when opportunity knocked on my door at the beginning of 2018. Finally, the noise penetrated and I realized that I could stretch my wings in a new direction by saying yes to the opportunity in front of me.

Given the limits of the 24-hour day, however, when something new gets added, something else must be removed. Unfortunately, one of the things I had to reallocate was the time I usually devoted to blogging. While I understood the trade-off, I missed the writing. And I really missed the interesting conversations with my readers.

And then opportunity knocked again. This time, it was in the form of a request to blog KMWorld Connect — a virtual conference for professionals interested in knowledge management, organizational culture and change, search and taxonomy, text analytics, artificial intelligence, and a host of compelling related topics. I’ve blogged KMWorld conferences in the past but this year will be a departure: a fully virtual learning and networking experience. Undoubtedly, there will be many new things to learn and to report on.

So I’m back to blogging. This week I will focus primarily on sharing the learning from the conference. Next week, I hope to start blogging on a regular schedule. But for now, fasten your seat belts for what I hope will be an informative ride.

Welcome back!

[Photo Credit: Raul Cacho Oses]

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Resisting Temptation

Temptation“I can resist everything but temptation,” Oscar Wilde once said.  Nowadays, if you look around most offices, you’ll discover lots of folks who appear to agree with Oscar Wilde.  They spend time during regular business hours on Facebook, checking personal email, indulging in online shopping, or just surfing the web.  In fact, it can seem as if the only temptation they are able to resist is the temptation to get some work done.

How bad is it?  According to a recent report on current research at Harvard Business School, the situation is quite serious: “A number of studies have suggested that US workers waste between one and two hours a day web surfing, costing their companies billions in lost productivity.”

In the face of these significant threats to productivity, some employers have taken the step of banning private internet use at the office.  While this may seem like an entirely logical response, Marco Piovesan, a Harvard Business School research fellow, thinks it may have serious drawbacks:

By banning web surfing, employers are essentially asking their workers to resist temptation until they can go home and surf on their own time. The rub: studies show that people asked to resist temptation in anticipation of reward become less productive and make more mistakes in their current tasks.

In the tests Piovesan and his colleagues conducted, they asked test subjects to complete specific simple tasks while fighting the temptation to watch a funny video.  The tests found that the people facing temptation “were more apt to make mistakes and were less productive overall” when compared to a control group.  In a workplace that demands high accuracy, this tendency could cause real trouble.  In any business that depends on high productivity, this could mean disappointing financial results.

Piovesan suggests that the better approach is to let employees know that they can have regular breaks in which to take care of personal business online.  He views this as a means to relieve the pressure and reduce the distracting and exhausting effects of having to exert self-control over long periods of time. This is consistent with the theory that “when we resist temptation we use energy to control ourselves-and then this energy is not available for subsequent tasks.”

Alternatively, we could let Oscar Wilde have the last word: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”

[Photo Credit: Joel Montes]

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