Friday, 27 September 2013

Our want for immediacy kills getting things done.

Long one this week - and rightly so. If you're in a rush. Stop and read.

I listened to the radio whilst driving into London last night. The topic was on broadband connection and speed of downloads.  People ringing up and complaining that they couldn’t download podcasts, songs or films without ‘unacceptable periods of waiting’. On hearing how long these people had to wait, I hear that in some circumstances they’d endured (wait for it) 20mins.




The world is in a rush to get things done fast, but I’m unclear as to WHY? There seems no benefit to accelerate waiting activity and reduce bottlenecks as observing behaviour after the fact simply doesn’t add up.

Let’s look at some examples.

I fly a great deal. I spend a great deal of time on planes.  Some long haul flights are 13 hours.  13 hours cut out of a day makes any productivity a right off. So either side of a 13hour flight you should concentrate on getting too the airport and enjoying the journey away from the airport. That’s it.

There are a proportion of business class flyers (and you know who you are) whose interpretation of hand luggage is grossly distorted. These people who are usually three gins to the wind upon boarding are the first to ‘tut’ when the pilot announces after a 13 hour flight that we’ll be an additional 20mins in the air to allow for air traffic clearance of something; like the world owes them a favour! Once down, no sooner have the tyres stopped moving – and in some cases still moving – these people are up out of the seats, grabbing their overpriced TUMI’s and marching up the aisle. They adopt a semi jog/walky stride (akin to a child with a loose bowel) up the HSBC ramp off to arrivals.  Of course without luggage to collect they can then breeze through passport and off to their destination ahead of everyone else.  WHY?

After 13hours you can’t have been that stupid to have booked a meeting. You are either going home, where you’ll potter about the kitchen and walk about the house, have a shower and aloow time to drag on or you’re off to a hotel room to do the same mundane personal human tasks like unpack a toiletries bag and order a club sandwich. There is nothing urgent you have to do and if you did organise something shame on your intelligence to do so with moments after a landing – did your professional life and diary planning and this flight come as a shock?

You’re dicks.

On the subject of high speed downloads. Think about it.  If your downloading a film that’s 2 hours, then why the fuss that it takes 20mins to come down your fibre optic.  Surely you’ve set aside a ‘free’ evening where you can open a bottle of wine, plump some sofa cushions, turn down the lights, light a candle and enjoy Fast’n’Furious6? Why not… er.. download the film overnight or during the day – I’m a little , no I’m a LOT shocked that the basic ingenuity of a human being can’t do this simple trade off.

Remember the computer games of the 1980’s when they arrived on cassette. We used to tip toe around the player as vibrations would make the tape heads wobble and the whole loading process would have to be started again.  After loading game over a period of 15mins we’d play ALL DAY. Why the review that things take so long to load when the rest of the day was spent playing the game – doesn’t make sense.

Some of us will remember ordering tapes, records, books, games, furniture, photos and so on using order forms and postage. 4-6 weeks we’d wait for precious holiday snaps to come back from ‘Trueprint’ or go to Our Price and ‘order’ a Bangles CD to arrive in the next delivery (often a week or two later).

My final example is more personal. I used to play piano. I’m now VERY rusty. ‘Back in the day’, I’d order sheet music which cost a small fortune and had a lead time of about 8 weeks and then I’d collect from the music store across town. I’d go home and I’d practise and practise.

I’ve now You Tube. Someone has generously filmed their fingers play in slow motion and printed out the score for me and for a few dollars I can download and print instantly the piece I want to play. Wish is exactly what I don’t do. In fact, I’ve reams of unplayed music scores sitting under a bed gathering dust. The piano has become a quasi coat shelf in the spare bedroom and I still won’t play.

My childhood in the 1980’s consisted of a great deal of waiting and looking back it probably did me a lot of good. The experience of NOT getting what I wanted immediately must have taught me something. If it didn’t then at least I know what it’s like to feel that way and adopt a way of living with such emotions.

Let’s now look at business as it’s here things get really interesting.  If at a personal level, we want things NOW and we travel business class with over sized hand luggage to leave the airport earlier than everyone else, to race home and download a film in seconds so we won’t watch it until another day… then it stands to reason all that passion and power would amplify in the corporate environment right? It would add up that all those impatient people who bang doors to get on overcrowded trains, who run up escalator stairs, who want a skinny late on the go and speed across town in white Range Rovers NEED to get shit done at work. It would be the case that in agency briefings we’d get told were working toward objective lead and time oriented briefs and projects and the senior managers really see this as a priority… right?

It’s not so is it.

Thomas Homer Dixon talks of an ingenuity gap between the natural capacity as humans to deal with the ever increasing world in which we live and design.  I think he’s right. I think also there is a patience vs. immediacy divide in the leaders, managers, business class flyers and film downloading population in the world.

My solution is to focus business in NOT doing anything.

Let’s face it, if we achieve this little by racing around then perhaps doing the opposite and learning some patience would probably accelerate thins for us all.

I’d also like to see patience and waiting getting more praise. I appreciate we have a surplus of cognition as we can get stuff done immediately. Some of use our time making YouTube videos and uploading Wiki pages – but for the rest of us, I’d like to see you learn how to manage the impact you have on others when you don’t get what you want in the time you want it.

To ring up a radio station and say 20mins is too long to download a film is unacceptable tells me a great deal about the value you have on the material things.

That’s worrying for us all. Shame on such society.


Go think it over. All of you.


p.s. I don’t hate all business class flyers – just those with over sized hand luggage in a rush. Dicks.


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