Thursday, April 14, 2011

On banning Youtube at work

While a strong case can be made that the information technology revolution has markedly improved productivity at the workplace, it is not that obvious that Internet at the workplace has such a positive impact. Indeed, it is very tempting to get distracted, and Youtube has certainly contributed to a shorter attention span in offices around the world (not to mention that these flash applications are huge resource hogs that require better and better computer equipment). And I cannot deny the Internet is providing me with a distraction that prevents from pursuing my regular duties, this blog for which my employer is not getting any credit whatsoever. Is then the solution to ban the Internet from work?

Alessandro Bucciol, Daniel Houser and Marco Piovesan do an experiment where some people get to see a funny video while others do not. The "frustrated" ones then turn out to be less productive thereafter. One should thus weigh whether to forbid the Internet, yes it wastes time, but you do not want to create this frustration effect. The authors conclude some basis that eludes me that the second effect is stronger.

But wait a moment. The experiment they perform is based on the fact that the frustrated ones hear a video but cannot see it. How would this relate to the Internet being banned from work? If that were the case, no one would hear the video and no one would get frustrated. And no time would be wasted. I cannot follow the authors' reasoning here. Maybe I am too distracted by the Internet.


Anonymous said...

A fine product of Harvard Business School...

Anonymous said...

I think you misinterpreted the results. Subjects were not "frustrated" but they only had to resist a temptation. The paper explains clearly that subjects are simply asked not to push the button and if they do that they can see the video immediately. Moreover, they will not have any penalty or loss if the push it. If many of them do not do that is just because the experimenter asked them not to do it.