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La concentración, el nuevo superpoder del siglo XXI

Distracción por el uso de la tecnología.

Una persona es más feliz cuando es capaz de desarrollar su máximo potencial. Puede que sea la nueva frase que veas en la pared de la recepción de tu organización, pero en realidad así es como Aristóteles definió la felicidad hace más dos mil años, llamando a este concepto eudaimonia. Uno de los mayores obstáculos actuales para alcanzar esa felicidad es el continuo incremento de la distracción y, como consecuencia, una creciente dificultad para concentrarnos.

La distracción y el mundo digital

En muchos países Latino América se ha comenzado a debatir cómo la tecnología está modificando nuestros hábitos de atención y concentración en la lectura o en alguna otra tarea. Hoy en día existen datos reveladores sobre la pérdida de atención generada por el uso continuado de distintas aplicaciones digitales. Según el Udemy in Depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, tres de cada cuatro personas millennials y de la generación Zafirman que se sienten distraídas en su puesto de trabajo y la mitad afirma ser menos productiva y no rendir como cree que debería.

Cuando se analiza el tiempo dedicado en promedio a las aplicaciones digitales, los datos que provienen de distintas fuentes son llamativos. Dedicamos más de 5 años de nuestra vida a las redes sociales y al menos 2 horas y 51 minutos diarios a nuestro teléfono: lo desbloqueamos más de 150 veces, cambiamos entre aplicaciones casi 600 veces y revisamos nuestro e-mail 88 veces.

Nuestro teléfono se ha convertido en el nuevo caballo de Troya que amenaza la fortaleza de nuestra concentración. No en vano, Nomofobia, la aversión a estar sin nuestro teléfono móvil, fue la palabra mundial elegida por el diccionario de Cambridge para el año 2018. Se estima que un 66% de la población (considerando todas las edades), padece de esta dependencia.

Los riesgos de la multitarea

Uno de los peligros actuales es considerar un comportamiento regular de “multitarea” como una habilidad profesional promocionada y valorada. En muchas ocasiones, esta conducta perjudica a nuestra productividad y nos impide mantener nuestros momentos de concentración de manera continuada, en el trabajo o en nuestra vida personal.

Para Cal Newport, profesor asociado de Ciencias de la Computación en la Universidad de Georgetown, una de las consecuencias negativas de la multitarea proviene de un problema que denomina el “residuo de la atención”. Cuando cambiamos nuestro foco de una tarea A a otra tarea distinta B, un pequeño residuo de nuestra atención y pensamiento se mantiene en la tarea original A. Este residuo es especialmente importante cuando la tarea inicial A quedó inacabada. ¿A quién no le ha pasado seguir pensando en e-mails, artículos o trabajos que no ha llegado a terminar durante el día a pesar de estar ocupado en una nueva tarea? Este residuo se acumula en el continuo cambio de tareas, perjudicando nuestra atención.

¿Sustituirá la atención al cociente intelectual?

La falta de concentración se está convirtiendo en un trastorno que alcanza a los profesionales desde su etapa como estudiantes. De acuerdo con Jennifer Shore, la nota media de aquellos estudiantes que son incapaces de resistir las distracciones mientras estudian se reduce en promedio un punto y sus exámenes finales tienen un rendimiento un 18 % menor. Incluso la distracción producida por teléfonos y otros aparatos y aplicaciones tecnológicas pueden producir, según Glenn Wilson, del Institute of Psychiatry de Londres, un descenso del cociente intelectual de un 10 %, el doble que el impacto que tiene el consumo de cannabis.

Esta es una preocupación cada vez más latente en muchos países, como Estados Unidos, donde dos tercios de la población afirman que la desintoxicación digital es importante para la salud (APA: Stress in America, 2018). Paradójicamente, uno de los colectivos que más controlan el uso de la tecnología en su vida diaria son los grandes gurús de Silicon Valley, con famosos períodos de desintoxicación digital.

Es por ello que no sería extraño que, en un futuro cercano, los equipos de recursos humanos de compañías de referencia en busca de talento primaran la concentración y la atención en lugar de los test de cociente intelectual u otras habilidades. La concentración permitirá a los profesionales mejorar su rendimiento y realizar tareas complejas que requieran un aprendizaje continuo dentro de la empresa.

Enfrentándose a la economía de la atención

Hace poco más de dos años, la revista The Economist tituló su portada como “El recurso global más valioso ya no es el petróleo, sino los datos”. Las grandes empresas occidentales actuales (Google, Amazon o Facebook) basan sus industrias en los datos y, necesitan captar nuestra atención. Ya no solo podríamos atribuir nuestra distracción o dependencia de las aplicaciones tecnológicas a síntomas como el aburrimiento, la ansiedad, el estrés, la baja autoestima u otros problemas psicológicos. Ahora luchamos contra algunos de los profesionales de mayor talento cuyo objetivo es captar y competir por nuestra atención, un recurso limitado y valioso.

Las redes sociales, uno de los mayores competidores por nuestra atención en el mundo digital, buscan sacar partido de nuestra búsqueda por el reconocimiento social, así como de la fluctuación de dopamina, neurotransmisor que recompensa con placer a nuestro cerebro gracias a los nuevos y deseados “me gusta”. Robert Sapolsky, profesor de Biología de Stanford, ha realizado experimentos muy interesantes que muestran que la anticipación de algo que podría ocurrir (“the magic of maybe”) incrementa nuestras descargas de dopamina.

Por ello se produce un refuerzo positivo de placer cada vez que intermitentemente buscamos en nuestras apps posibles likes o nuevos mensajes entrantes. Este continuo deseo de regresar a estas aplicaciones amenaza nuestra capacidad de controlar nuestra atención y, por tanto, la productividad de nuestro trabajo, tanto en el ámbito laboral como en nuestra vida personal.

Desarrollar el músculo de la atención

Alcanzar habilidades para mantener la concentración no es nada fácil por los factores que hemos comentado. Algunos expertos, como Cal Newport, han tratado de combatir esta situación con teorías como el minimalismo digital, una filosofía de trabajo en la que se realiza un uso más optimizado y eficaz de las herramientas tecnológicas utilizadas, centrándose únicamente en las que añaden valor.

Desarrollar el músculo de la atención requiere conductas y prácticas adecuadas que vengan sobre todo del individuo. Por un lado, estas son necesarias para la mejora de la productividad en las empresas e instituciones, en contextos de cambio permanente y con retos complejos que requieren un continuo aprendizaje, el cual solo es posible mediante la atención y la concentración.

Por otro, estas conductas son imprescindibles para que cada persona logre sus objetivos y consiga ofrecer lo mejor de sí misma, para que pueda alcanzar un estado de eudaimonia. Por tanto, la concentración nos facilita el camino hacia la satisfacción y el bienestar, receta única para la felicidad.


Borja Santos
Director ejecutivo y profesor de IE School of Global and Public Affairs

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