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Do you ever have trouble paying attention and maintaining focus for lengthy periods?
So do we!

Think about what happens when you get into work to start your day. You can have the best of intentions, but when people are unpacking the latest episode of The Bachelor or suggesting a coffee run, it’s easy to be distracted and become sidetracked from what you were working on.
Our attention spans are the amount of time we can spend on a task without becoming distracted {1} Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus and sustain attention on a task is crucial for goal achievement. Interestingly, there has been some research indicating that our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. With evolving technology and interruptions such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, disruption is ever-present; and doesn’t just impact younger generations – it’s affecting us all.

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So how does attention span work?

According to Dr Jenny Brockis in her book “Future Brain”, the concept of attention stems back to the earliest of days, when attention could mean survival. That is, it helped us to find shelter, food and kept us safe from predators. It enabled us to learn, to get better at doing things and supports the creation of memory. From a scientific perspective, there are three ‘attentional’ networks – alerting, orientating and executive.

The alerting network implies we must be awake to pay attention. There are various levels associated with this. I know my level of ‘alertness’ first thing in the morning (before coffee!) is…less than stellar. But as we become more aware of our surroundings, we start to register and take in the variety of stimuli from our environment. Then we start to ‘choose’ what we focus on.
The orientating network, this is how we use our senses to orientate ourselves – smell, sight, sound, touch and taste.
And finally, the executive network, which is the prefrontal cortex of our brain where we process the conscious thought that directs our actions {2}

What impact does this have on organisational learning?

Knowing that attention spans are becoming shorter, we need to design learning experiences carefully.
Beyond the fact that old-school ‘Next…Next…Next’ e-learning or PowerPoint-driven experiences are dull. They are just bad learning design.
We use a variety of approaches to make learning engaging, fun, application-based and easy to digest. If you’d like to learn more about our approach and how we can enable your people to engage, learn and perform – contact us for a chat!

Learn more about Instructional Design

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Citations

1 Beger, Rudolf (2018). Present-Day Corporate Communication: A Practice-Oriented, State-of-the-Art Guide. Singapore: Springer.
2 Brockis, Jenny (2016). Future Brain. Australia: Wiley and Sons

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