Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About?

Multi Tasking Cartoon

Over the last several years I have read many articles (popular as well as academic) that have consistently tried to educate people that multitasking is inefficient, error-prone and negatively impacts the mental health of the so-called multi-tasker.

However, we still receive job applications with resumes that highlight the multitasking skill of the applicant. So, I chased this a bit, and discovered that even consultants helping people apply for jobs advice them to highlight their multitasking skills (or is it a single skill?). I have also found ‘multi-tasking skill’ as a checklist item in the interview evaluation forms of a few organizations.

Evolution of the Multitasking concept

The word ‘multitasking’ first appeared in the description of the capabilities of an IBM computer (System/ 360) in 1965. People started using the word for human beings in the 1980s as a desirable skill and something that enhances productivity.

So, what is multitasking in human beings?

Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task, or activity, at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking.

Wikipedia

In the last ten years, multiple controlled experiments and studies have been conducted to understand the concept of multitasking in humans. The research consistently shows that humans cannot pay attention to multiple things at the same time. So they are essentially doing rapid context switching. This increases the total time taken and also increases the errors. People who typically multitask, perform poorly (compared to people who do not typically multitask) even when they are asked to do tasks sequentially.

Continue reading “Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About?”

The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet

The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet

Some days ago, while taking our usual morning walk at the nearby public park, we saw a small gathering of the regular morning walkers. Some of them beckoned us to join them. After the gathering had become sizable, one of the persons (Shanku) cleared his throat and said, “We are proud to announce that the new public toilet of this park will be soon inaugurated – thanks to all of you for the support.” he pointed to a  newly erected set of green boxes, which were being given finishing touches. I was not sure of the support I had given, but decided against voicing it.

Attached is a picture of the toilet (appropriately masked/ hazed out to protect the privacy rights of the public toilet – by the way, do public toilets have privacy rights?).

Shanku continued, “We have invited an important officer of the municipal corporation – the DC of …. for the inauguration scheduled on the 15th of this month, at 10:00AM. I request that all of you remember to come for the inauguration.”

“By the way, this is one of the first virtual public toilets in Bangalore”. This elicited some minor clapping and murmurs of appreciation. After some time, a squeaky voice ventured, “But how does one do it virtually? I would prefer to physically use a toilet.” The appreciation changed to apprehension. Soon the confusion was cleared, it was meant to be an e-toilet, with the “e” representing some kind of automated flushing based on electronic sensors.

Shanku tried to regain the control with his next point, “It also has extensive security features – hidden CCTV cameras everywhere.” That resulted in more grumbling “they are going to take my photo while I am….?”. Again, after some consultation, it was clarified that the cameras were not hidden, and were placed just at the entrance to the toilet area.
Continue reading “The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet”

“My Bad” and its nuances

Musings on the use of the term “my bad”.

I first heard the term “my bad” many years ago. After my initial puzzlement, I figured that it was a new way of saying “my mistake” or “I am sorry”.

Over time I have realized that “my bad” is subtly different from “I am sorry”.  “My bad” is usually accompanied by a casual flick of the wrist and a sardonic smile. If the head is full of bouncy hair, there also the optional toss of the head.

It is like the person is saying, “I have apologized, now don’t make a fuss about it.”

I suspect (without actual data), that many folks rehearse saying “my bad” in front of a mirror. They also deliberately make the minor mistakes in their work,  or practice spilling coffee on the others – just so that they can say “my bad” in style.

I believe that the Corporate Communication team of a large organization is soon going to release a policy and guidelines document on the use of “my bad”. This is likely to be copy/pasted across the world eventually.

Continue reading ““My Bad” and its nuances”

“This Number is Busy” message with additional analytics

Today, I re-dialed a “missed call” from an acquaintance, and got a busy tone with the message “this number is busy” in multiple languages.

I was about to cancel the call when I heard “Press ‘1’ to know more – we are piloting an analytics engine.”

I was intrigued, and pressed “1”. Here is what was conveyed (the gist):

“93% of the time, this subscriber disconnects his outgoing calls (gender confirmed through subscriber Profile data), before these calls are picked up. Most likely (86% probability), he is trying to save his call costs. He developed this habit earlier, but continues even when the free call limit is infinity.”

“His number is also busy most of time. That is because he is either inefficient in transacting his business quickly (34% probability) or is lonely and wants to prolong the conversation (43% probability), other reasons account for the rest of the probability.”

“If you can satisfy your requirements (information needs or your own need for chatting with someone) through other means, you are likely to be better off.”

“Press ‘2’ to know information about yourself – based on the pilot analytics engine”.

I automatically pressed ‘2’ before realizing my blunder. The disembodied voice continued:

Continue reading ““This Number is Busy” message with additional analytics”

Cartoon: Lifetime Warranty ~ Whose Lifetime is it Anyway?

Cartoon: Lifetime Warranty ~ Whose Lifetime is it Anyway?

Recently we went on a project to evaluate and buy a household appliance. Part of the sales pitch that we heard repeatedly was about warranties, with the phrase ‘lifetime warranty’ finding its way in the spiel.

I can understand the concept of warranty for a period of time (1-year, 2-years, etc.), but the concept of ‘lifetime warranty’ has me confused  — I am not sure of whose ‘lifetime’ the warranty is valid for. For example:

Continue reading “Cartoon: Lifetime Warranty ~ Whose Lifetime is it Anyway?”

Fridge Inside a Cabinet: Design Thinking or Unthinking Designer?

Fridge Inside a Cabinet

For anyone who stays in hotel rooms, the three pictures above would be familiar. They are the pictures of a mini-fridge inside a wooden cabinet. The cabinet is usually closed from all sides, except for a small hole/ slit for the wiring. This seems to be the case in all types of hotels, regardless of their “star” rating.

Continue reading “Fridge Inside a Cabinet: Design Thinking or Unthinking Designer?”

Cartoon: New Revenue Source for Bangalore Traffic Police

Cartoon: Slaves to Measurement

According to sources not willing to be identified, Bangalore traffic police is toying with the idea of imposing ‘invalid parking’ fine on all vehicles that are halted in traffic jams. The consulting firm that suggested this initiative projected that the annual collections will shoot up between 10.3 – 12.4 times their current collections.

It may also motivate the drivers who get stuck in jams to find innovative solutions to avoid traffic snarls.

Continue reading “Cartoon: New Revenue Source for Bangalore Traffic Police”

Increase Chances of Becoming a Donor (organs/ body)- Take Action Now!

Organ Donation LogoAugust 13, 2016 is being observed as the Organ Donation Day in India.

Briefly, one can donate tissues, organs and the whole body. Donations can take place under three circumstances:

  1. Donations when alive and conscious. Examples of these include blood, stem cells, bone marrow, kidney (only one), and segments of liver, pancreas, lung, or intestine, and are limited by what can be given without affecting the health of the donor.
  2. Donations when ‘brain dead.’ These include organs that can be transplanted such as heart, liver, pancreas, intestine, 2 kidneys, and 2 lungs. Tissues such as corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, and veins can also be used.
  3. Donations within a short time of typical death. Some organs/ tissues can be used for others, for example corneas harvested within a few hours after death can be used to give sight to someone. You can also donate any part of your body — like the brain — for research and use by the medical community. Finally you can donate your whole body to a medical college, usually to the anatomy department, so that students can study it and gain experience.

Continue reading “Increase Chances of Becoming a Donor (organs/ body)- Take Action Now!”

Why is the CVV Number Printed on Credit Cards?

The CVV number is a 3 or 4 digit number (associated with a credit card) that is used for verification in case of Card Not Present (CNP) transactions. CVV stands for Card Verification Value and is also called Card Security Code (CSC), Card Verification Code (CVC), Verification code (V-code or V code), and Signature Panel Code (SPC).

Card CVV Number

CVV numbers are used to authenticate the card, as an additional security measure when the card is used in online transactions. It is like an ATM pin.

I am unable to understand why the CVV number is printed on the card, whereas the ATM pin is provided to the card holder separately.

Continue reading “Why is the CVV Number Printed on Credit Cards?”

Recycle Greywater to Reduce Urban Water Needs

Some weeks ago, there was a buzz in our residential complex about having to set up “grey water” processing, because it may be made mandatory by the municipality. I got curious and started investigating the topic.

At the end of my study I was left wondering why it was not yet mandatory – grey water processing, when fully implemented, could reduce the water requirements in cities by 30-35%!!
Continue reading “Recycle Greywater to Reduce Urban Water Needs”