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Amanda Wang Valentine's picture

How do you believe attention affects operational performance in your organization?

Hi all, I'm looking to understand people in EHS positions thinks about workers' attention, how it affects operational performance and how you are managing for this? Thanks for any thoughts.

October 20, 2016 @ 03:38 PM EDT

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2 Answers

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Attention is an interesting topic and one that I think a lot of people misunderstand. For example, commonly found in accident investigations is the idea that "worker wasn't paying attention" or some form of "inattention". This is a misleading statement though, because conscious adults are pretty much never not paying attention. We're always paying attention to something the overwhelming majority of the time.

This is important to recognize because by understanding what the worker is paying attention to, rather than the thing that you would like them to pay attention to, it gives you more opportunities to intervene and get the performance you want. You can make the thing you want them to pay attention to more interesting, or you can make the thing that they were paying attention to less interesting, etc.

October 21, 2016 @ 12:47
Ron Gantt's picture

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Amanda Wang Valentine's picture
Amanda Wang Val...

Thank you @tamaraparris for suggesting @rongantt and @vincemarchesani answer this.

@rongantt thank you for answering. If I am understanding you correctly, you are making changes to processes, task, the environment etc to direct people's attention to the task at hand. Is that correct? Have you ever worked on strengthening individual’s attentional abilities so that they can consciously control/direct their attention to the task at hand, even when it’s less interesting than the non-vital tasks?

Thanks for any input.

October 21, 2016 @ 02:44 PM EDT
Ron Gantt's picture
Ron Gantt

Well, the approach I'm talking about starts with understanding. People do things that make sense to them at the time, so we should identify why it makes sense for them to pay attention to something else. From there you can make changes that are often more sustainable than focusing on individuals.

As for strengthening attentional abilities, I haven't worked on that. Honestly, I'd be skeptical of that approach, but I have heard of mindfulness training having some benefits in areas such as this.

October 21, 2016 @ 03:01 PM EDT
Amanda Wang Valentine's picture
Amanda Wang Val...

Ok I understand.

Yes @rongantt mindfulness is really powerful but hard to do, not easily scaled and has a wide variety of effects.

Can you tell me why you are skeptical of strengthening attentional abilities? I'd love to understand more.

Thank you

October 21, 2016 @ 04:21 PM EDT
Ron Gantt's picture
Ron Gantt

Well, you hit the nail on the head with one of my concerns - it is hard to do and not easily scaled. Also, I'm not aware of any evidence that it is possible. The "brain training" software programs have shown little or no generalizable effects according to the research I've seen. Also, I'm concerned that such an approach places the risk management burden on the worker, absolving others in the organization of their responsibilities.

I assume you have an approach that you're thinking of in this discussion. It might help if you tell me more about it, so we can talk more specifically?

October 21, 2016 @ 04:43 PM EDT
Amanda Wang Valentine's picture
Amanda Wang Val...

@Ron, You hit the nail on the head regarding “brain training”. Luminosity etc. are targeting a broad range of cognitive skills. This ‘full spectrum’ approach is of uncertain value. However, enhancing one set of cognitive skills, specifically attention, has been shown to generalize (as in people have better attention outside the exercises themselves). We are using these to address safety performance within the workplace.

We’ve built a mobile application that strengthens sustained attention, emotional regulation/impulse control (staying focused under stress etc.), the ability to filter out distracting information and visual attention. These tasks have been proven to help people with attentional disorders (ADHD, PTSD, dementia etc.) to have stronger attention outside of the task for decades. They have also been used to optimize attention for adults with healthy brains.

We are sensitive to the perception that we are ‘blaming’ the worker for ‘inattention’. Our communication with management and front-line personnel is tailored to address this by relating attentional ability to other acquired skills, like tool handling skills, situational awareness or being willing to ‘stop the job’. We are not a diagnostic tool to evaluate workers nor will executives have access at the personal level data. It’s very important for us that people learn that attention is key to much of how we interact and react in life. It has a role in resilience, being adaptive, and solving problems in real time. Being attentive, not only makes us safer and less distracted but more “present” in our personal lives. This delivers a myriad of benefits to us – physiologically, physically, emotionally and being able to work as teams. That is also a big part of our message to teams.

October 24, 2016 @ 10:49 AM EDT
Bert Huntley, CRSP, CHSC, CSP's picture
Bert Huntley, C...

@amandawangvalentine and @rongantt

This is a great discussion, I have not done a whole lot of research on the subject but I can say I have seen the response "not paying attention" on at least 80% of incident reports. I believe that much of the time workers' (especially in repetitive or mind numbing type work) tend to operate most of their day on "autopilot". I have heard this term used before to describe how we drive to work everyday when we always go the same route. Also recently there have been a lot of studies and a lot of discussion around our focus behind the wheel when we are "distracted" by items like cell phones and texting - even hands free. It seems like it all blends into the topic of attention.

November 14, 2016 @ 03:03 PM EST
Olaniba Ayodele Adekunle G's picture
Olaniba Ayodele...

@amandawangvalentine Am totally astonished about conversation about how to gain full attention to get bet of work performance in workplace, pls i would like to know the name of mobile application you meantion so i can also benefit from it.. thanks alot. Good job..

November 28, 2016 @ 03:30 AM EST
Amanda Wang Valentine's picture
Amanda Wang Val...

Hi @olanibaayodeleadekunleg here's some background on the link between safety, performance and attention that @tamaraparris kindly hosted https://community.intelex.com/explore/posts/strengthening-worker-attenti... and if you have more interest, please contact me offline

November 30, 2016 @ 12:03 PM EST
Amanda Wang Valentine's picture
Amanda Wang Val...

@berthuntleycrspchsccsp glad you like the discussion and hope you had a chance to listen in this am on our discussion. I know @tamaraparris is working hard to post it once it goes through the edit.

Yes this is all under the subject of attention. We should recognize that the whole "autopilot" thing is natural - it's our brain's response to familiar, predictable or dull environments. It takes energy to be attentive. Our systems are smart so move into autopilot and direct the energy elsewhere. And we are wired to respond to new stimuli. Our phone going off lights up a reward system in our brain, that of course, trains us to want more.

November 16, 2016 @ 03:14 PM EST
Tamara Parris's picture
Tamara Parris

I have posted the questions here; https://community.intelex.com/explore/posts/strengthening-worker-attenti...

I have posted the recording of the discussion at the link above for members to watch

November 16, 2016 @ 04:44 PM EST
Answers

interesting question @rongantt @vincemarchesani what are your thoughts about if attention affects operational performance in your organization?

October 21, 2016 @ 10:34
Tamara Parris's picture

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