In the Modern Workplace Working Together is King; or, maybe Working Alone is King; or, maybe both – Insight from Charles DuHigg and Cal Newport (Deep Work)

Smarter Better FasterIn the modern workplace, working together is king.

A worker today might start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers, then send emails to colleagues marketing a new brand, then jump on a conference call planning an entirely different product line, while also juggling team meetings with accounting and the party-planning committee. To prepare students for that complex world, business schools around the country have revised their curriculums to emphasize team-focused learning.
Charles DuHigg — What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team: New research reveals surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter.

In the modern workplace, getting “deep, cognitive work” done while working alone is king.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitivedeep-work-cal-newport capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. We now know from decades of research in both psychology and neuroscience that the state of mental strain that accompanies deep work is also necessary to improve your abilities.
Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

It’s confusing, isn’t it. To be successful in the modern workplace, you have to work well with others. And, to be successful in the modern workplace, you have to get much better at getting deep work done “in the alone zone” (to borrow a phrase from the Rework guys).

So, here’s the challenge: to build a workplace that encourages and facilitates both.

And that is quite the challenge, isn’t it?


Note: I will present my synopsis of Deep Work by Cal Newport at the March 4 First Friday Book Synopsis. And I will present my synopsis of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, from which the above quote is excerpted in the New York Times Magazine article, at the May 6 First Friday Book Synopsis.


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