Off-Topic: Societus Interruptus

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My wife hadn’t seen the first season of Mad Men, so we went to On Demand and loaded up Season 1, Episode 1. I saw something in that episode that you would never see in today’s business world.

No, it wasn’t the incessant cigarette smoking. Nor was it the blatant sexual harassment.

Instead, it was Don Draper closing the door to his office, laying down on his couch, and taking a nap. With nobody interrupting him.

That’s downright mind-boggling in today’s business world.

In the course of an email exchange with a friend recently, we bemoaned the seeming fact that so few managers think their way out of problems. As I thought about that some more, I realized that (for many) it’s not because they’re not able — it’s because they don’t have time.

Today’s managers face a never ending series of interruptions during the course of a day that just don’t allow them the time to sit and think. And worse, even if they did have time to do that, then either: 1) someone is bound to think they’re goofing off, or 2) they’ll feel uncomfortable because they’re not used to just sitting and thinking.

Personally, I’m very fortunate. I have a job that gives me time to think (in fact, it kinds of requires me to think). I couldn’t have it any other way — I left a higher paying job where I didn’t have time to think for this one.

It’s not that I’m not interrupted by things. I’m interrupted by plenty of things. But I’m very conscious about what I let interrupt me. Perhaps oddly, one of the things I let interrupt me are Twitter tweets. When a tweet pops up I take a look. And that’s why I’m picky about who I follow and agree to let follow me.

Generally, I’m more than happy to interrupt my train of thought to read what a Twitter buddy is thinking about, dealing with, enjoying, or frustrated about at that given moment. I don’t mind those interruptions at all.

But tweets that tell me what someone is eating, or that they’ve just arrived at their hotel/flight/work, or that they’ve just posted a new blog post (which I’ll find out about any way), are simply not interruptions worth my attention. They’re annoying, but I’ve endured them.

Until now.

Something has come along to shake me from my silent suffering. That something is called 12 Seconds.

So let me get this straight. When you tweet, you want me to stop what I’m doing to read your tweet. But when your tweet is nothing but a link to a 12 Second video, you’re asking me to read the tweet, click on the link, and then watch a video.

These videos may be nothing more than you telling me what you ate for breakfast. I don’t know. I’ve only watched one of them so far (it was McAlpine’s “I know who the CU Skeptic is” and I only watched it because I suspected that he would let time run out without mentioning the Skeptic’s name — and I was right).

You might dismiss all of this as just the grumbling of Mr. Cranky. Fair enough.

But I’m really trying to subtly and gently (which is really hard for me) make a bigger point.

In today’s business world, we all face one interruption after another. If you want your interruption to be noticed, then it has to have some value for its intended audience. Whether it’s a tweet, email, phone call, or a 12 Seconds video. This is especially true of the emerging social networking avenues. As new communication channels, there’s a sense of novelty to being able to “write on someone’s wall.” But the novelty will wear off real quick if these communiques are mindless expressions.

If, however, you still feel the need to tweet your breakfast, fine, I can live with that. Just as long as I don’t have to spend 12 seconds watching you eat it.


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