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For a large part of our society, people’s daily lives are focused on themselves. There is nothing wrong with this. But this is the nature of most 9-5 jobs. They are nothing more than a way for an individual to acquire means to survive. To be able to help other people is sanctified to the rare and few.

Here at W2O Group, we are given that rare opportunity to work on projects that provide value to humans.

Now the beauty of this statement is in the fact that it’s near impossible to dispute. The basics of healthcare technology is to improve and care for human lives, so that people can live longer and healthier. Could you ask for a more meaningful mission statement, that encompasses what it means to help others?

A few weeks ago, I went for a walk with Mike Nelson, who is a Managing Director within W2O Group. He explained to me the importance of understanding the bigger picture, and how our roles as individuals and as a company fits into that:

“The way I view our work here is sort of like the bridge between science and society. We help communicate the value that science brings to people.”

Understanding this higher-level idea is so essential to creating enthusiasm on a Sunday night before the work week ahead. Furthermore, the opportunity here at W2O is illuminated when coupled with this much larger perspective. The drugs and therapies we help bring to market are saving lives and helping people across the developed world.

But the kicker is that these solutions are not just for Americans or Europeans or even the Japanese. They are for human healthcare problems that have never been adequately solved before; and as the rest of the world is developing, these solutions will benefit our entire species for decades to come.

We are helping biotech and pharma companies pioneer treatments by driving exposure to the very people and organizations that these companies wish to serve. We are helping share their unique scientific advancement in a way that is understandable. We are using robust analytics, creative strategy and cross-disciplinary collaboration to ensure that these transformative solutions are broadcasted, shared and ultimately applied to humans.

The harder we work, the more lives will be saved, not just now, but always.

Our mission is so much more than helping a company with a press release, connect to a certain media outlet or prepare for a news interview. We are trailblazers. We play an integral role in pushing forward how discovered scientific solutions get displayed to the world, so that our clients, can forever benefit our species.

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The tragedy of Hurricane Harvey hits close to home for our team in Austin. We knew we had to act quickly to aid our friends, families, and fellow Texans who were impacted by the storm. Within 24 hours we identified a Houston organization with W2O connections to partner alongside and assembled a team to execute.

We approached our CEO Jim Weiss with our plan and he simply said, “make it happen.” So, that’s what we did. We chose to partner alongside Ecclesia Houston, a church leading the charge matching those in need with volunteers and equipping teams with tools and supplies to assist in cleanup and recovery. Ecclesia is located at the foot of downtown Houston and is dedicated to taking care of all parts of the community – making them the perfect partner for us.  They sent us a list of necessary recovery supplies, unavailable in Houston, and we got to work purchasing them in Austin.

Jim immediately committed $5K of his personal funds which allowed us to buy flood relief supplies, but our leadership team wanted to do more, so they took things one step further. We set up a fundraising campaign and W2O committed to matching all donations up to $5,000.

Due to the amazing generosity of our fellow colleagues along the long hallway and others, we surpassed our goal in under 24 hours and the donations continue to come in, putting us at over $8,500 raised by W2O employees and families so far. Combined with the $5K match and initial $5K donation, these efforts will result in over $18,500 to support recovery efforts.

Donate here if you’re interested in contributing to the W2O Group Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Friday morning the ATXers loaded up the truck and our team headed out to Houston!

When we arrived in downtown Houston, we joined a frenzied effort to unload and organize recovery supplies for volunteer teams currently working at flooded homes. Ecclesia had run out of dehumidifiers, a prized commodity in these times, so the 11 dehumidifiers and 10-15 fans/blowers were a welcomed delivery which were immediately put to use. And the outpouring of support continued as trucks and cars loaded down with supplies continue to pour in. Seeing the need, we jumped in to help unload supplies for 2.5 hours before heading back to Austin. Here is a quick walkthrough showing the amount of recovery supplies:

Thanks to everyone who donated your money, supplies, talents, or time. We wouldn’t be able to #MakeItHappen for those effected by Harvey without you! Thank you for reminding us that we truly are #BetterTogether. And finally, here is a personal thank you from Chris Seay, lead pastor at Ecclesia Houston:

Contributions to this post were made by Steven Cutbirth, Operations Lead of MDigitalLife and Chris Olfers, Senior Manager of Applied Analytics at W2O Group.

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Last week in Philadelphia – against the backdrop of Independence Hall and the legacy of Rocky Balboa (for anyone who hasn’t see the Rocky movies, the premise is a blue-collar guy from the streets of Philadelphia fights the odds to become a heavyweight champion boxer) – we held our fourth BUILD. meeting.

BUILD. has become our annual immersion in connecting different parts of the business to our growth strategy with the goal of accelerating integration, strengthening client service, and increasing agility in a complex, distracted world.   It begins with each and every one of us dedicated to the spirit and opportunity of relentless pursuit on behalf of our clients and ourselves to win in the marketplace.

At BUILD. 2017, we had our biggest attendance yet reflecting W2O’s growth and the resulting expectations before us. The meeting featured approx. 70 presentations regarding our capabilities, client cases, new and innovative services, marketplace and business insights, and discussions on integration, account management, and financial acumen.

Over the next several weeks, you will be seeing and experiencing various parts of BUILD. 2017 through your manager, OpCo president, or Practice leader.

The purpose of this effort is so that you can BUILD. Yours!

BUILD. Yours! is all about taking ownership of your responsibilities and our future.

We are a different firm. New people. Familiar people but new roles. Different skills emerging. Different capabilities.

We’re different because the world is different. Socially, politically, technically, consciously.

Business is different. Our clients are different.

Relevance dominates the marketplace. Digital is a lifestyle.

Customers and employees are in control.

Evolution has been a sort of mantra for me the last several years. We are evolving. Two years ago I likened our journey to that of a teenager becoming a young adult. Everything you thought about yourself and the world around you was a new experience and reality.

Like Rocky, who in the first movie was just seeking an identity…to Rocky II, when he won the championship achieving relevance.

It didn’t come easy.

Hard work. Attention to detail. Being honest about weaknesses and working to improve them. Remaining humble.

We ceased being a traditional PR/Communications firm years ago with our analytics-led approach and by virtue of how we think. We’ve moved quickly over the last 18 months to dimensionalize our offerings in digital, creative, marketing, and strategy with communications at the core.

Now it’s about integration and solutions to give our clients an Unfair Advantage.

I’m proud of what began in my condo some 16 years ago. A young entrepreneur in a yellow robe with a small group of dedicated people intent on being the “BEST” for our clients to where we sit right here, right now. It happened through a relentless pursuit of “what’s next”. A fearless approach to learning new things regardless of failure.

And an unwavering focus on client satisfaction.

The future is fraught with uncertainty as technology is never ending.  But we must be willing to embrace the changes necessary to secure our future. We must savor the journey.

We Can Do This…

Go. Ahead. BUILD. Yours!

Jim

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We agree. Simplification is required in these complex times.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal by Alexandra Bruell titled “Ad Groups Try to Simplify in Complex Times” discussed the difficulties of transforming from the traditional ad agency model to one driven by data science, technology and the mashup of services that were siloed for far too long.

The article and the industry angst resonates deeply for us at W2O Group since we have been transforming our firm this way since 2009.  Of course, back then, it didn’t seem all that cool to add in data science, fully embrace technology and start reinventing traditional communications and marketing models.  Now, it’s a no-brainer and a race to evolve quicker than market needs.

Here is what our clients are asking for that was emphasized via this article’s focus.

#1 – Clients Want Real Integration – They want analytics, planning, creative and the resulting campaigns to reflect intellectual, not physical integration. We like to say that if insights are driving our decisions, we are in the right mindset.  Gone are the days when we just “had an idea.”  Now, every aspect of our offering is driven by insights.

#2 – Work for Clients Like You Are the Client – Sir Martin Sorrell said “ensuring our people work seamlessly together through client teams and country and sub-regional managers to provide integrated benefits for clients is absolutely essential.”  We agree and we have found that actions matter far more than words, which is why we have always operated with one P&L for our five operating companies.  Our teams know that the only thing that matters is building the right team that brings the requisite solutions to our clients’ business problems.  We believe P&L infighting is the scourge of our industry and we want no part of it. Neither do our clients.

#3 – We Are ALL digital – Many of the larger agencies are struggling with “who owns” digital? For us, it is easy. Everyone. We ask 100% of our team members to understand digital, understand analytics and know how to solve problems and spot opportunities.  If everyone is digital, we are also media-neutral in how we approach a client’s need and that also improves how we integrate and build the right teams.

#4 – Earned & Shared Media Are Redefining PESO, Particularly Paid – In the article, Ms. Bruell writes “the holding companies’ complex structures have also impeded their ability to move quickly at a time when clients are demanding more real-time digital marketing responses to daily events, particularly on social media.”  We agree and see the emergence of audience architecture, social graphics and agile media planning reinventing how we build campaigns.  In today’s world, via our algorithms, we can identify and track our exact audience.  We can determine what content they desire about a brand or related to it and we can adjust to their needs by the hour, day or week. The headline is simple. Our customers are driving earned and shared media, so if we listen closely to their exact needs, they show us the game plan. If we are tracking paid media primarily, we only know how successful our campaign was, but we learn very little about what our customers actually want. Combining earned, shared, owned and paid will change how we plan, think and act.

#5 – The shift from video to visual experience – Everyone is pushing hard to provide more videos for social media platforms. We’re continuing to explore how our brains process visual experiences, so we can provide the right visual content at the right time, whether it is the right image, video, website or other visual educational content on the journey to form a view on a brand.  You need powerful analytics and a heavy dose of the right machine learning models to see how significant it is to know what will resonate inside our brains. In general, about 2/3 of us prefer to learn visually. It feels like the very beginning of a new way to reach our customers is starting to happen.

#6 – Clients Don’t Want to Pay for Overlapping Services – The article states that “what they want is a single business relationship that gives them access to creative, technology and media expertise without having to potentially pay for overlapping services.” This is exactly why we are continually building a shared services team that takes us from insights to content to planning. One powerful engine of expertise can be shaped for each client, based on what they need. While always a work in progress, we’re well on our way to meeting the needs of all sizes of companies. It is too painful and leads to less innovation if we try to do this in each operating company. Areas like analytics and how we embrace technology require that we go deep and get it right and keep evolving.

#7 – The Expanded Version of “Creative” – We have the highest respect for our creative teams who come up with ideas, based on insights, that we would never think about. This same spatial knowledge, which is a real gift, exists with our analysts and increasingly in general management leaders who have absorbed the principles of analytics and creative and happen to have this type of mind. It’s leading to an entirely new way to think of what “creative” really is if it is truly maximized for our clients.

We’re excited about the future and we look forward to continuously improving our offering to match and stay slightly ahead of the needs of our clients.  We also know how talented the leaders are within holding companies and remain confident that they will figure out how to overcome their legacy structure and systems to find new ways to innovate for their clients.  We have been relatively unencumbered from a restrictive structure since Jim Weiss founded the company in 2001 so we believe this has allowed us to evolve and scale based solely on client needs in this changing environment. And that’s not going to change.

The result is that we’ll all benefit. Our collective efforts will represent the next generation of our industry. It will be part communications, part marketing, part data science and part things we don’t know yet. Who knows what the era will be called. All we know is it will have a lot of “mad women and men” who can’t change fast enough.

This blog was co-authored by Chief Client Service Officer Jennifer Gottlieb. Fully committed to customizing every client engagement, Jennifer develops integrated teams that deliver the best work and drive business outcomes and success. She has been with W2O Group for a decade and has partnered with global companies big and small in the areas of pharmaceuticals, technology and consumer.

The theme for my summer reading centered around politics and government. As many of you know, I like to read in themes to go deeper and learn more, when possible, about a specific topic or way of thinking.

Here is a review of this summer’s books.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amy Parnes – To say this campaign had its challenges would be an understatement. The authors, who thought they would be chronicling a ground-breaking win, instead were given the task of describing what went wrong. Kudos to them for showing us what failure looks like from the inside in a professional manner. It happens in business and politics. The world still spins. And we can all learn from it.

The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom by David Boaz – The left and the right argue about how much government should do for us. Libertarians save time, in this regard, since their view is generally to minimize the role of government. This was a helpful, albeit slightly academic read on why they hold these views so strongly. Very helpful to me to see the principles and passion that guide a minimalist view of the world of government. We would all benefit from asking “why do we need something” more often.

Ghost: Confessions by a Counterterrorism Agent by Fred Burton –  Fred Burton had a storied career working for the U.S. government and devoted a significant part of his life to chasing leaders of terrorist cells worldwide. Besides the chase, he opens up and shares what it is like to live this life, which shows how much personal sacrifice is involved. This is a very engaging book written by a leader who lives in Austin and works for Stratfor today.

The Anatomy of Terror by Ali Soufan – an ex-FBI agent’s view of how Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and the rise of the Islamic State have expanded, suffered defeat and grown again over the last decade. Ali Soufan’s insights are a perfect read for those of us who want to go deep and learn about how this evolution is occurring.

Make Your Bed by Admiral McRaven – After these first four books, I needed to go back to inspiration and fun. Admiral McRaven’s now famous book provides the inspiration. It is simple, clear and harder to do than it looks if we think about the principles he outlines in our daily lives. And, no, I do not make my bed every day. I probably should start doing so.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – we ended our summer visiting our youngest daughter, Brittany, in Dresden, before taking a two-week trip throughout Germany. So, why not end the summer with a read of this famous fictional book that is dark humor at its best and centered in Dresden around the time of WW II and beyond. Thank you to Michael Roth for the suggestion.

The fall reading list now starts. Will be shifting to science for this quarter, starting with mental health and then moving to two books on genomics, one on blockchain and we’ll see from there.

Ideas for new reads always welcome. Best, Bob

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Sentient has experienced strong growth since joining W2O in December 2016. To continue W2O’s momentum in building a fully integrated agency, we announced two new Sentient hires: Dominic Viola as Managing Director of Client Services and Michael Spitz as Practice Leader of Strategy. I’ve worked with each of them for over 10 years and am thrilled to welcome them to W2O. Recently, I sat down with them to gain insight into their background and vision for the firm.

Dominic Viola
Michael Spitz

 

 

 

 

Adam: Welcome to the W2O and Sentient teams. I’ve worked with you both for over a decade and am excited to bring you onboard. What originally attracted you to join W2O and how has your experience been so far?

Dominic: For most of my career, I’ve challenged the traditional approaches companies deploy to uncover insights for their brands. In most cases, they are built on what our customers want you to think they are doing versus how they are actually behaving. W2O gets this and has built its forward-thinking model around this phenomenon. We have the ability, in real time, to understand real behaviors and act on them as they evolve through their journey, delivering the right story, at the right time, through an experience that builds allegiance. This has been very refreshing and exciting to see in action.

Michael: I was attracted to W2O likely for the same reasons you were: a smart, creative and analytics-focused powerhouse that uniquely understands the vital connection between insights and activation. Clients today demand a single partner rocking it across the continuum, and W2O — especially with the Sentient acquisition — seems perfectly positioned. My experience so far has been wonderfully assuring, with the model working smoothly throughout the diverse accounts I’ve already leaped into.

Adam: Your roles both focus on growing the business. How do you see our firm growing over the next few years?

Dominic: The world is moving faster than most company’s ability to understand and engage with their customers in a way that’s meaningful. W2O Group understands this dynamic and has built its capabilities and brought in the talent necessary to address it. The world of silos is coming to an end. A fully-integrated model fueled by robust analytics will be the accelerant for our growth over the next few years.

Michael: Now that we all carry connected computers in our pockets and demand immediate, personalized and global services at the tap of a screen, brands have unprecedented opportunities to engage their customers. That paradigm shift has put digital front and center, and erased the traditional boundaries between PR, AOR, DAOR, media and other specialties – so success in 2017 and beyond demands the fully integrated approach W2O is mastering.

Adam: What is your “super power”?

Dominic: I love this question because I’ve always felt that my super power is being able to quickly identify everyone else’s super power. My role requires me to know who to put where and when. As a Client Service Lead, I focus on leveraging and coordinating the strengths of team members across disciplines to get the best work. The coordination of those strengths will always surpass the strengths of a single individual. Nothing is more satisfying than putting the right team together and watching them work their magic.

Michael: I’m “Simplicity Man!” Give me a mountain of complex data or a crowded noisy conference room and I’ll be able to quickly and intuitively identify the essential goal, define a measurable key performance indicator, and propose immediate and actionable next steps to get the job done.

Adam: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Dominic: Learn from everyone, follow no one. Everyone has something to teach you, whether right or wrong. If you embrace that, you will harness the strengths of those around you, learn from their mistakes, and watch your true potential thrive.

Michael: Get to the point! Mean what you say and say what you mean — and when writing, never EVER use the pointless clauses “It is…” “It was…” or “There is…” “There are…” because the passive voice is the scourge of humanity!

Adam: What is something people may be surprised to know about you?

Dominic: Growing up, I always wanted to be a builder. I love working with my hands. I find it incredibly satisfying to take an empty basement or garage and completely finish it over. My next project will be a Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse for my kids.

Michael: I love solving over-sized Rubik’s Cubes and playing over-loud electric guitars. When not driving people crazy that way, I run half marathons and should never be allowed to sing.

Adam: Thank you. It’s with full confidence that I say you’ll both be instrumental to the Sentient team. Looking forward to #MakingitHappen.

View the official release for more details around the announcement here.

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Two of our interns, Amanda Dominguez and Janine Bogris, share their experience at W2O.

As we look ahead to our senior year and to continuing the legacy of the Center for Social Commerce, we think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on our summer experiences here at W2O Group. Our time in the New York office has been rooted in client centricity, team work and engaging in a unique company culture that empowers its employees to better themselves while providing the most value for clients. In a short matter of months, we have transformed from communications students to communications professionals. Here’s some of what we learned this summer:

Learning to become client focused, day-in and day-out

Janine: One of my goals going into the summer was to impact others through my work. At W2O, I’ve been able to experience the client and agency partnership process from end-to-end. Even as an intern, I’ve been able to be client-facing, allowing me to build a trusted relationship with both agency and in-house teams.

Amanda: Similarly to Janine, I have been able to directly see how the projects I worked on impacted my team members and our clients this summer. My time and efforts have been put to good use, whether by developing social content, pitching media or weighing in on how to best solve a client’s communications problem.

Adapting to the diversity of work and pace of an agency

Amanda: Working on multiple projects and with different clients has allowed me touch many areas of the business, which has expanded my knowledge far beyond what I anticipated. Experiencing agency life with its constant change, fast pace and multitasking that comes along with it has given me a new appreciation for organization and collaboration. I learned quickly that working closely with my team and fellow interns led to the best results.

Janine: I have often said that while other companies give interns tasks to do, W2O gives us jobs to do. It became clear to me early on that I was going to be an integral part of my teams and that being agile was going to be imperative in this internship. I drafted social content calendars and posted them live to our clients’ social pages. I managed daily monitoring reports to inform clients of conversation surrounding the industry and their companies. I also compiled exploratory research reports which informed the strategy and tactics we recommended to our clients.

Enhancing skills we learned in the classroom at the office

Janine: In just 10 weeks at W2O Group, I’ve been able to really grow and watch the communications techniques I’ve learned in the classroom come to fruition. After starting the summer as a public relations student, I feel like I am leaving as an up-and-coming public relations professional, taking with me the skills and knowledge that will prepare me for my future career.

Amanda: Public relations is a relatively new industry for me, so learning the basics and seeing the integration between different communications functions at an agency have been extremely valuable. I’m excited to apply the skills and perspective I’ve gained at W2O Group to my last year of college and when I join the communications industry after graduation.

Surrounding yourself with positive role models (and resources)

Janine and Amanda: We’ve come to realize the people you surround yourself with directly impact your success. Luckily for us, our managers and team members have been amazing resources and provided us with guidance that will follow us throughout our careers.

We’re incredibly grateful for this opportunity and we’d like to send a huge thank you to all the inspiring people at W2O Group for making our summer so special. We look forward to seeing how the agency will continue to evolve in the future.

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Our fearless leader, Jim Weiss, has always believed that great people doing great work are key reasons for the firm’s success. We’ve experienced exponential growth in the last year, and we’ll continue to strengthen our talent and capabilities to stay ahead of the curve. Today we announced the hiring of Mary Corcoran who will join the firm as President of Twist Mktg, the second largest firm in W2O’s network. I’m excited to welcome her and sat down with her to get a little more insight into her background and why she chose to join the firm.

Gary: Welcome to the W2O and Twist Mktg teams, Mary. We’re thrilled to have you here. What attracted you to W2O?

Mary: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I like building things, and thrive in innovative, fast-moving environments. When I met Jim and the other leaders at W2O, I knew straightaway we were kindred spirits in this sense. In addition to the cultural fit, W2O has made some very smart bets in the marketplace to drive innovation and business results through communications and marketing programs, thinking ahead of the curve on analytics in particular. Our clients, more so than ever before, need partner agencies to maximize their investment to the measurable benefit of their businesses. W2O is in a position of strength to deliver on this critical client need.

Gary: From your perspective, what are the critical factors to building a successful agency today?  

Mary: Hmm, well we don’t want to give away all of the secrets – we have a business to build at Twist! Just kidding.. kind of.  In all seriousness, in building agency business, I focus on the following:

  • Start with the clients (always!) Listen carefully, and discover their unmet needs. This sets the roadmap for the capabilities and talent required to meet an evolving communications and marketing landscape
  • Retain and hire the VERY BEST people to create an optimal alchemy of creativity and intelligent delivery
  • Work your tail off
  • Have fun, lots of fun.

Gary: Mary, can you share your background in health and tech and how that is in sync with your role here?

Mary: Technology and health are the two sectors where I have spent the most time in my professional life. On the health side of things, I focused exclusively on digital health for the first part of my agency career, particularly in the public affairs and advocacy realm. In that context, I worked in a wide variety of sub-sectors, including various pharma trade associations and companies, health insurance, medical technology and bioscience. The work ranged from DTC and HCP marketing to public affairs advocacy to crises.  The next chapter of my career was almost exclusively tech focused, including consumer, B2B and corporate work across a wide swath of the Valley.

My depth of experience across health and tech are important for this role not only to support and expand the current health leaning client portfolio, but to support our aspiration to continue to scale our work in the technology sector.

Gary: The digital landscape is constantly changing. What do you think is most important for marketers/communicators to keep in mind to ensure success?

Mary: Regardless of medium, I would always counsel that the most important thing – has been and always will be – audience.  Where do they seek information and what sources do they trust (platforms, publications and people)? What about your message or product is relevant to them? What will move them to awareness or even better, action? Uncovering the powerful insight (s) that marry the authentic attributes of your product/campaign to the unmet needs of your target audience is rocket fuel for breakthrough creative. Channel planning and paid media informed by rigorous analytics and optimization ensures the message is delivered effectively.

Gary: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Mary: Work hard and be nice!

Gary:  When you look at building teams and integrating skills and services, what do you focus on most to be effective?

When it comes to building and integrating diverse teams to deliver killer communications and marketing programs, I think you need to keep it dead simple. This is what I focus on:

  • The client – First always. Identify the client’s problem or opportunity.Get crystal clear on this point. Codify with a brief and ensure consensus with your customer!
  • Determine the mix of talent and capabilities ideally suited to knock the project or campaign out of the park
  • Identify the people, assemble the team and assign a leader
  • Ensure clarity of roles, responsibilities, expectations and work rhythms, but not to the exclusion of agility.
  • Do the work!

Gary:  Can you share the one thing people would never believe about you?

Mary: I blew off business school for a boyfriend. Who has now been my husband for almost a decade and we have two beautiful children. I don’t regret my decision!

Gary: This was fun. Thank you, Mary! Looking forward to working alongside you and #MakingitHappen.

If you believed everything you read on the web, you might be tempted to think there’s only one right way to work, a way that should work for us all. But how in the world could this be true?

I recently read an article posted on LinkedIn about the dangers of multitasking. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the author asserted that there is a loss of efficiency and quality when we attend to more than one task at a time. As an instinctive “monotasker,” I couldn’t agree more; I was ready to grab my pitchfork and proclaim, “Down with multitasking!” But as I considered the habits and routines of my peers in the workplace, I couldn’t help but wonder if this advice would fall flat with some of them. While I usually tackle tasks in a systemized order, completing one before starting the next, I’ve worked with masterful multitaskers who can juggle priorities and execute simultaneous work-streams. In fact, in an “always-on” world, with the sheer volume of information to be dealt with in multiple channels, devices, applications, and social media, it’s almost impossible for any of us not to multitask in some way or another throughout the day: half listening to a conversation, half processing our response to an unwelcome tweet, etc.

I’ve read countless best-practices articles in support of multitasking, touting this model or that, promising more output or better output. Ever since the dot-com boom, multitasking has not only been a bragging right for many new job applicants, but in some workplaces this ability sometimes feels like an expectation for incoming candidates, a quality sought by every headhunter. Of all the content I’ve read on successful and productive work environs, nearly all suffer from the same bias: that there’s only one right way to work, and that way should work for us all. It stands to reason that this isn’t true, nor is it that simple. Here’s why:

1. Setting

Strictly speaking, there are two crowds out there: those who prefer to work independently and those who draw energy and ideas from working in group settings. Neither mode is better or more efficient—it’s simply a matter of what works best for the individual in question. As an independent, I value the time it takes to prepare for discussion and the quietude required to contemplate issues and have an aversion to the mental scramble that tends to happen when a group of folks is shouting out thoughts off the tops of their heads. Dreadful. However, I appreciate that there is another contingency that thrives through collaboration, that enjoys floating half-baked ideas out to a team and riffing on them in real time. This group revels in the vitality of social interaction and is most productive in a populous environment. And (drumroll please) it’s ok to work either way.

2. Tense

As in: past, present, future. If we were to bifurcate types, the first would be those who consider themselves deeply practical, who prefer to focus on matters of fact, and who base their decisions on learnings from concrete past events and perceptions of the present situation. This group is most productive when they are confronted with real-world problems that require pragmatic solutions. The second group, of which I am part, might feel limited by focusing on that kind of information at hand and show a tendency to abstract, have a desire to imagine new possibilities, and feel more comfortable sorting through mental exercises in a hypothetical realm. We seek to expand the pie before dividing it. Again, neither way of approaching work is necessarily better, and in fact these two models can very much complement one another in a heterogeneous atmosphere.

3. Temperature

Some of us run hot; some are cool customers. My boss is passionate and inspirational. He places a lot of emphasis on values, how people feel, and what makes them tick. There’s no question that he built a successful career on being able to navigate the nuances of human interaction and drive consensus by appealing to social and emotional motivations. To him, I imagine I sometimes appear unresponsive, impersonal—heck, he’s even used the term “binary.” I take no offense to that, because I’m part of a group that prides itself on its ability to confront a situation with utmost objectivity. This group, by contrast, puts more emphasis on cold, hard facts, often prioritizing reason over feelings. It’s harder to get a rise out of us, but not for lack of care—we just don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves. Over the years, increasingly recognizing our differences, my boss and I have learned how to volley those mindsets back and forth and leverage each for the betterment of a given cause.

4. Inertia

As Newton’s first law of motion states, “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, while objects in motion…well, they want to just make a decision and get on with it.” Ok, maybe that wasn’t all Newton, but the idea still holds. Each of us has a different propensity for the time it takes to reach a decision or desired outcome. Take my wife, for example, who just last week purchased a pack of double-A batteries online. Where she could have easily found it at the drugstore down the street, she instead scoured through Amazon, BestBuy, and a small rolodex of other websites until she found the best deal. She views this level of comparison shopping as necessary, and in fact I suspect finds some measure of joy in it all. Me? I can do without all the fuss. Find something that fits the need, commit to it, and move on. We’ve frustrated one another on more than one occasion—from her perspective, I’m too quick to judge, too dismissive of the alternatives, and too comfortable missing out on a potential opportunity. From my perspective, if the cost (in this case, measured in units of time) outweighs the benefit (dollars saved), then it’s better to just settle on something and make peace with it. Neither way of approaching options and decision-making is “right,” per se. Each has its merits and its benefits, but knowing that we are different in this respect has helped us negotiate with one another more effectively and learn to be open to different styles.

5. Synthesis

Each of these examples depicts axes where we can plot ourselves, a spectrum that can easily be generalized from introvert to extrovert, pragmatist to idealist, monotasker to multitasker. However, when we pull back and look at all the possibilities, we arrive at the unique complexion that illustrates our work/life habits and can be used to understand each other as professionals. There are a number of psychological theories and assessments that attempt to formalize and typify exactly what these complexions are and what they mean.

So now back to the question of multitasking: is multitasking “bad”? Maybe for some, but maybe not for others. The more important question is, does it work for you? Are your work habits aligned with your individual preferences, your style, and your strengths? Are you aware of those habits and how they might be perceived by, and ultimately affect, your coworkers? And perhaps most of all, are you aware of the differences in your approach compared to your peers’ in such a way that it can be utilized to benefit the whole? To always seek balance and harmony, to create a rich and diverse working environment by accepting and embracing differences… that, and that alone, is the best productivity advice I can offer. Diversity in work habits is essential for creating a productive work environment, so it’s important to embrace what makes our habits and routines unique, relative to our individual personalities. In a phrase, productivity is personal.

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