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Making Technology Choices and Avoiding Unintended Consequences in Times of Crisis

There is no question that we are learning daily as we reach for technology platforms to conduct distance meetings and teach the millions of students who would normally be in classrooms. We are all learning through trial and error that each platform has different levels of security, architecture and ease in usage.

When we find ourselves in crisis the speed of reactive decisions is often staggering. With the current public health crisis, we experience daily results of a technology laboratory fully open for business. The technology you select for a meeting with people you know well may be different than a platform you select for people you have never met before. Many of you already use different platforms for different groups in your communities.

Technology will never improve the quality of meetings where the purpose and outcomes are not well articulated, nor will it improve flawed learning curriculums. Like pandemics, poor learning curriculums and meeting designs transferred to online platforms fossilize them and spread them around.

For many years we have become accustomed to conference calls that require us to listen attentively. With the addition of platforms that include the faces of many people, we are confronted with visual stimuli that make this type of meeting platform more exhausting for facilitators/teachers and the participants. If leaders and teachers conducting online meetings and classes are exhausted from the technology used we will see changes in the rate at which meetings can be scheduled as well as the rate that curriculum material can be covered. We will need to re-evaluate the teacher student ratios as well as the facilitator attendee ratios if we continue to use these facial technology platforms long term. The critical decisions we ask our public leaders to make daily cannot be made effectively in a state of continuous distraction. Trying to be on a conference call where decisions are being made while simultaneously answering emails on the phone makes us less effective. This level of distracted behavior will undermine leaders’ capacity at a time when they need to learn new information quickly and make crucial decisions. To learn more about this level of mental distraction and performance read How Smart Phones Hijack our Minds below.

It is incredibly important as Public Leaders in city hall or in the classroom to introduce technology that supports our ability to accomplish mission and outcomes. Frequent articulation of mission and outcomes will help you make smart technology choices that serve as a means to accomplishing your purpose. It will be necessary for us to admit that in many cases the current technology available will not adequately meet our needs or resolve deficiencies that were evident before this crisis. How we readjust to deal with critical mission related outcomes, is the challenge and opportunity for the future. We are at the beginning of this forced learning process. We have a rare chance to create a new and more sustainable future for all of us while not creating negative unintended consequences.

The articles attached below show the impact of multi-tasking and the importance of understanding brain science. Both will help you and your teams understand focused attention as a pre-request for learning and effective decision making.

How Smart Phones Hijack our Minds:

(appeared in Wall Street Journal).

Read this article online at Rewordify. is a powerful, free, online software that improves reading, learning, and teaching

Neuroscience and Leadership:

Read this article online. Excerpt follows.

“Concentrating attention on your mental experience, whether a thought, an insight, a picture in your mind’s eye, or a fear, maintains the brain state arising in association with that experience. Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connection keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive. These circuits can then eventually become not just chemical links but stable, physical changes in the brain’s structure. Cognitive scientists have known for 20 years that the brain is capable of significant internal change in response to environmental changes, a dramatic finding when it was first made. We now also know that the brain changes as a function of where an individual puts his or her attention. The power is in the focus.” – Neuroscience and Leadership