Book Review: “Now You See It”

by Cathy Davidson, performed by Laural Merlington

The phone rang. You were interrupted, but you barely noticed.

That’s because you were looking online for information on a project due that afternoon. You were also eating lunch when you answered the phone at the same time you replied to a colleague’s email at the same time you texted your spouse.

You’re light on your feet, an expert multitasker, despite that experts say it isn’t possible. According to author Cathy Davidson, though, multitasking is the way of the future. In her new audiobook “Now You See It”, she says to get used to it.

Have you ever listened closely to those pharmaceutical ads on TV? You know they’re created to spur you to want a prescription, but you might be surprised at the rest of the story. Next time, listen to the disclaimers: the tone and speed of the announcer is meant to make your brain diminish or ignore the warnings.

Learning to pay attention to “what counts” begins literally at birth. Through actions and words, parents subtly teach infants what’s important, and culture further underlines it. But by teaching infants and children to pay attention, we inherently teach their malleable brains what not to notice, too.

And then they go to school…

In 2003, Davidson and others at Duke University gave iPods to 1,650 first-year students — most of whom had grown up with technology — because educators were “intrigued” by what might happen. The students were merely asked to “dream up learning applications for this cool little white device.”

Davidson says that, much to her delight, students began spontaneously crowdsourcing, a new method of learning and working that encourages collaboration. Schools that are not embracing this new method of learning, or that aren’t allowing students to learn at their own paces or according to their personal strengths, are using outdated methods of education. Furthermore, they’re not properly preparing young people for tomorrow’s business world, she believes.

So how will this affect your business?

Get rid of old ways of working, Davidson says, and try crowdsourcing to give your employees flexibility. Look for talents instead of focusing on limits. And stop allowing age to be an excuse for laziness.

“Now You See It” is meant as “a field guide and a survival manual for the digital age,” and author Cathy Davidson hits that target square.

Maybe a little too square.

There’s no doubt that this audiobook is intriguing. Davidson uses anecdotes and statistics to back up her ideas, offering lots of usable information that makes sense. She engages readers with wit and appropriate factlets, and it’s hard not to be completely mesmerized by what she presents.

The problem is that this is a long audiobook to tackle and if you miss one sentence, you’ve missed a lot. Because you’ll naturally be multitasking while listening, what you hear may sometimes feel repetitive and redundant.

Overall, though, can you afford to ignore such important information? If you’re in business, I think not. For you, for sure, “Now You See It” is research to notice.

Book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 and never goes anywhere without a book.