Can OD become aligned with our Diminishing Attention Span?

Given our diminishing attention span, I have written  this post  so that it will take only one and a half minutes to read. Less if you just scan it briefly. If needed, I can send you a brief summary.

OD’s true value expresses itself in enhancing peoples’ relationships, creating a context of cooperation which goes beyond certain specific transactions. That’s the unique and essential “core” of developing an organizations’ human capabilities.

And it takes time to do so.  Meetings take time. And the “time” I am referring to is not a minute here and a minute there between looking at your phone or PC. I am referring to protracted periods of time working on improving the people part of organizations.

Everyone actually has the needed time, there is no doubt about that. But they don’t have the attention span, thus the time spent focusing on any given issue is a few minutes at best. Probably less. We have lost the ability for protracted focus, and this is a boundary condition in which we work. This is not good news for OD. There is no doubt in my mind that we have to adapt to this reality. It is bigger than us; we cannot change it. True, there are consultants who claim that OD can take on huge mega tasks of societal change, but these are the very consultants who often fail at smaller tasks, such as retaining their own clients. So be it. 

Here are a few things I have done, with a very heavy heart, that allows me to continue to practice on in the hostile focus-less époque.

  • No more long group meetings. 90 minutes far max. Even these are few and far between.
  • Personal sessions are 45 minutes at the most. Often less.
  • I tend to ignore people glancing at their phones two or three times during a meeting; if it is more frequent, I suggest that we reschedule.
  • I try not to deal with a wide range of issues, but rather try to keep more focused.
  • At times, I myself use messaging for clients who are extremely busy all the time, albeit I detest myself for doing this.

Let’s be honest; it is a battle of retreat. With all the technology, working from home, and the ubiquitous use of cell phones, relationships have become transactional. And, as a result, most  OD has morphed into a water-down form of “motor oil” to keep the transactions squeaking on and/or by perfuming the pig with wellness, gender parity or diversity. All the former are real issues, but do not focus on the true value OD, namely that good, trusting relationships, healthy interfaces based on fulfilled and negoitiated mutual dependencies  serve as a very solid platform to enable things getting done.


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