Technology may enable the always-on worker, but Mother Nature doesn’t allow an always-on mind. That creates a dilemma for companies that want employees perpetually in touch but know that a distracted person makes subpar choices. The same problems arise when people sit at their desks, suffocating in data, but are asked to make strategic decisions.
“The challenge we face in our ability to concentrate on any one thing has become enormous—unless you put controls on people’s relationship with modern technology,” says Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School. Iyengar is the author of The Art of Choosing, about how people make decisions and how to choose better. She concludes that giving customers or colleagues too many options can impair their ability to make skillful choices.
This is the tightrope CIOs must now string for their companies. The ability to deploy systems that help colleagues make decisions—not simply close the books or place orders, but think—is emerging as a critical dimension of the CIO’s job. You must become a scientist of organizational and human behavior to really exploit IT. (For more on helping colleagues make better decisions, see "Teach Young Workers to Be Business Thinkers.")