Attention Spans are [Fidget] Spinning out of Control

Every era is defined by a corresponding pop-culture fad. Beanie Babies in the 1990s, Livestrong bracelets in the mid 2000s, and Snuggies in the early 2010s. Today the fad is overwhelmingly fidget spinners. The fidget spinner, said to be one of the most profitable customizable products since the Koozie, has taken the children’s toy market by storm.  


“Fidget spinners held the top 16 spots in Amazon's rankings of the most popular toys, and 43 of the top 50. Add fidget cubes (a spinner cousin), and fidget toys hold 49 of the top 50 rankings,” according to CNN.


Like most fads the fidget spinner will inevitably fade from popularity [think about it, when was the last time you saw a Snuggie, Livestrong bracelet or Beanie Baby], but the social trend they represent is not likely to. Although it has been repeatedly debunked, the marketed purpose of the fidget spinner is to improve focus. What does that say about the state of our society? Why do we need a toy to help us get things done? Because attention spans are shrinking, taking a toll not only on school children but on adults in the workplace.  


Many experts blame modern reliance on technology for the shrinking attention spans of millennials while others point the finger at general societal shortcomings. Shortened attention spans, regardless of the cause, are changing the way the world at large [especially the business world] operates.  Constantly shifting your attention during the work day is incredibly taxing on the brain thus affecting productivity in areas like critical thinking and creative capacities. The equation is simple:


Lack of Focus + Digital Distractions = Lessened Productivity = Lower Profitability


In order to keep an organization profitable and growing, systems must be put in place to combat short attention spans and lack of focus, and no handing your marketing assistant a fidget spinner and expecting them to get a burst of focus is not a long time solution.


According to psychologist Caroline Beaton a lack of focus is largely an evolutionary issue. “Concentrating on what’s novel and fast is no longer as useful for our survival and success,” Beaton explains. Although focusing on “the novel” may no longer be evolutionarily necessary, it remains important at work. How can we ensure continued focus if the issue is biological? Simple, training. Like any biological phenomenon, we may not be able to completely eliminate the problem of short attention spans but we can learn to adapt.  By understanding the causes of distraction and being able to prioritize tasks, individuals can develop tricks to staying focused.


smith & beta has been approached in regard to the problem of diminished focus time and again.  Our findings correlated directly with the findings of many others; inability to actively listen and/or focus and collapsing attention spans are ravaging digital organizations.  Training is the first step toward fixing these businesses. By producing two workshops, Master of Distraction and Talk Less, Listen More, focusing on dealing with cognitive overload and active listening, we hope to help organizations develop hard and soft skills to combat focus issues.  Through taking these focus-centric workshops, attendees address causes of distraction, future goals, and specific ways to overcome their lack of workplace productivity.  


Continued professional training on both hard and soft skills is immensely valuable for the evolution of an organization. By minimizing distraction through training the productivity of the organization is likely to increase dramatically, as will the profits.  It is simple, what is the first step to producing a deal sealing pitch? The focus to be able to complete it.

Did you read these already?
2021 The Big Shift

2021 will represent a major permanent shift in how we work, collaborate and connect with employees and customers.


smith & beta had a baby named Giide

Six Years Strong

smith & beta is now 6 years into our research of the capabilities and ways of working at agencies. We just released our 2018 Talent and Transformation report and we're excited to share with you what we found.

Talent Development, Experts and Mindsets. Let's Go.

Our business at smith & beta has always been focused on the development of people walking in the doors each day. We believe that if a company focuses on the current talent, what they know today and should know in the future, it can make all the difference to the bottom line. But some leaders aren’t familiar with talent development. It’s new. It feels unmeasurable. It seems foreign compared to hiring a few new experts. It’s a mindset and strategic shift. Yet we know talent development works. We also know that experts don’t scale. Often those superheros we hire land at the new job only to find that no one at the company understands them. They get siloed into a back room. They are change agents without support. They eventually leave. It happens time and time again. Take a minute to consider your budget for hiring experts this year or even a single leader and then compare to your training dollars. Is there a big difference? Do you operate as “training is nice to have” but not required? If so, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to scale and distribute capabilities beyond a few people at your company. Digital is not a department. Digital is shared knowledge, common language and collective understanding. When we design talent development programs, we work with industry leaders directly to lead content design. They are the experts. They know what should specifics should be covered. They walk in the room and own the conversation with employees. Below we’ve included a great workshop to get started this year.