Thursday, April 01, 2004

Continuous partial attention can amplify performance

Out: multitasking. In: continuous partial attention (CPA).

CPA is a term coined by Microsoft VP of corporate and industry initiatives Linda Stone. As explained in Inc. and blogger Stowe Boyd's in-depth analysis, continuous partial attention is a way of scanning the barrage of information that comes in to you while not getting buried too deeply in any one source.

You're not trying to do several things at once, as in multitasking, but paying some attention to various arenas looking for something that might require a fuller attention. (Hmm, that's kind of what I do when I read through the emails, newsletters, and press releases in my inbox, keeping an eye out for something of interest to blog about.)

Boyd talks about CPA as a coping strategy that can save you time and energy. (If you're buried in working on a project and an email comes in that completely changes the project's focus, not paying attention to that email can waste days of work for you and your team members.) He says it can even amplify performance. But Stone cautions that it's important to break away from CPA and pay full attention when it's warrented.

Whether you agree with the idea of CPA or not, the articles are worth reading and thinking about.

(Sidenote: Boyd read about the CPA idea in other blogs, which he links to before he offers his analysis. This is a neat example of how blogs can work as collective intelligence as bloggers work off of each other.)

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