persistent under certain circumstances and often possess an entrepreneurial flair. Theydisplay ingenuity and encourage that trait in others. They tend to improvise well under pressure. Because they have the ability to field multiple inputs simultaneously, they can be strong leaders during times of change. They also tend to rebound quickly after setbacks and bring fresh energy to the company every day. Nevertheless, executives with ADD typically achieve inconsistent results. They can perform brilliantly, but sometimes they fail miserably because they are disorganized andmake mistakes.
The light, the hope
Rather than being rooted in genetics, ADT is purely a response to the hyperkineticenvironment in which we live. Indeed, modern culture all but requires many of us todevelop ADT. Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many date points. Everywhere, people rely on their cell phones, e-mail, and digital assistants in therace to gather and transmit date, plans, and ideas faster and faster.One could argue that the chief value of the modern era is speed, which the novelist MilanKundera described as “the form of ecstasy that technology has bestowed upon modernman.” Addicted to speed, we demand it even when we can’t possibly go faster. JamesGleick wryly noted in
The Acceleration of Just About Everything
that the “closedoor” button in elevators is often the one with the paint worn off!!” As the human brainstruggles to keep up, it falters and then falls into the world of ADT.
How Your Brain Functions
The largest cortex governs what is called, aptly enough, executive functioning (EF). EFguides decision making and planning; the organization and prioritization of informationand ideas; time management; and various other sophisticated, uniquely human,managerial tasks. As long as our frontal lobes remain in charge, everything is fine.Beneath the frontal lobes lie the parts of the brain devoted to survival. These deepcenters govern basic functions like sleep, hunger, sexual desire, breathing, and heart rate,as well as crudely positive and negative emotions.When you are doing well and operating at peak level, the deep centers send up messagesof excitement, satisfaction and joy. They pump up your motivation, help you maintainattention, and don’t interfere with working memory, the number of data points you cankeep track of at once. But when you are confronted with the 6
decision after the 5
interruption in the midst of a search for the 9
missing piece of information on the daythat the 3
deal has collapsed and the 12
impossible request has blipped unbidden acrossyour computer screen, your brain begins to panic, reacting just as if that 6
decision werea bloodthirsty, man-eating tiger.