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Stowe Boyd

It's Stowe, not Stow.

The notion that people can't multitask is obviously false. How can you drive a car and talk on the phone? Listen to music and read a book while scratching your arm?


For me the real win has been social connections around the world so the 'reciprocity' piece really resonates for me. Instead of feeling more isolated, I feel more connected and more effective for it.

I'm okay with not groking the total volume of the internet, but I'm up on the .01% that I need to stay informed and even more importantly stimulated to create.

Great post as usual!

Beth Kanter

@Stowe .. oops for mis-spelling your name. John Medina would chalk it up to multi-tasking which also leads to more errors (according to the research he mentions)

Medina is talking about multi-tasking in terms of your attention - yes you can do things at once - but apparently the brain can't pay attention to two things at once.

Beth Kanter

@hans see what Liz Straus has just written about that ..

Marnie Webb

I think there are tasks -- many tasks -- that are still very one-to-one in nature. Applied to a nonprofit context, they are things like writing and submitting a grant, hiring a new staff person, getting ready for the board meeting. In those instances, personal productivity matters more. As I check things off my list, I'm making real forward progress. Here social productivity and connectedness may help me and improve my work, but my work getting complete isn't dependent on that.

There are other activities that are much more based on moving a network and require me to be social productive. In those instances, me getting things done on my list are dependents but are insufficient. Made contact with people at edges. Check. Gave my hubs materials to spread in a viral fashion. Check. Those activities are not going to help me to get to done.

So, I guess, I'm saying that the answer to your question is based on context and what it is you are trying to get done. Increasingly, I think we need to be socially productive because more and more of our work requires it. And social productive in the sense that it is required and not just additive.

Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Scarlett Swerdlow

This was a great read. Thanks, Beth.

I'm very in tune with Marnie's remarks. I feel my organization does appreciate networked productivity, though I'd never thought about it in these terms or context. That said, whether I'm focusing on personal productivity or networked productivity depends on the landscape: what's going on today, what's happening tomorrow, etc.

For instance, a large part of my job is legislative advocacy, which involves both personal production (I need to make direct contact with X offices, host an event in Y district, or place an OPED in Z paper) as well as networked production (I need to develop our grassroots network in A region, nurture B number of new grassroots leaders, or reach out to C constituency).

As it turns out, the time of year has a lot to do with this. While the legislature is in session, I'm much more focused on personal production. Obviously, I'm reaching out to our network, but I'm not as focused on nurturing the network through the three Rs. When the legislature is out of session (which hopefully will happen this year in Illinois - other Illinoisans will know what I'm talking about), I will put aside more immediate personal goals and work on nurturing our network so we're stronger next year.

Ideally, we'd have someone 365 days a year focusing on networked production, but given our resources, it's not possible. The personal production tasks are important too.

Are there examples of successful social change movements that haven't at their foundation had people focused on personal productivity?

Ultimately, some stuff is best done loosely, in a decentralized manner by groups, but other stuff is best done by one person drawing on their own intellectual and time resources. It just depends on the context.


I used to work for an organtion where everyone was logged in to Skype all the time. We used it for IM and for phone calls. It favored a certain kind iof personality, who could handle interruptions, and it did at times make it hard to get tasks done which required strict focus. We also tended to gossip with each other via IM while we worked.

But - we had offices in London, LA, DC, and Croatia as well as country offices all over the world. Being constantly linked on skype made us a true team, and being able to instantly get answers to highly specific questions made it well worth the interruptions. And 20 minutes spent discussing other people's love lives with a country director in Uganda or Lebanon formed a bond that made work go better.

At my new job, I really, really miss that connectivity. It made me feel like I was part of something that was both big and personal.

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