Tip of the Month: Charrettes, the antidote to a multitasking world

We live in an age of multi-tasking. As I write this piece I am distracted by the multiple windows open on my computer.

We live in an age of multi-tasking. As I write this piece I am distracted by the multiple windows open on my computer. My email program alerts me every time a new message arrives, the phone rings as people try to reach me with unrelated issues, colleagues stop by with questions.

Computers and the Internet make it possible to instantly connect to information from almost anyone, anywhere, at any time. With a single click of a mouse, I can see what is going on this second, around the world. We are constantly distracted by competing information.

Recent studies at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan indicate that multitasking actually limits productivity and creativity. Creativity requires focused attention. Artists and songwriters regularly seclude themselves from distraction when creating a new piece.

Unfortunately, professionals rarely have a chance to seclude themselves. Most must work on several projects simultaneously, while managing daily organizational tasks. Clients demand constant attention. Projects are complex, involving many layers of information, and include many specialists who must be in constant communication.

Charrettes are an antidote to multitasking and distraction. Charrettes allow a team to focus on a single problem uninterrupted for four to seven days. This continuous, intense team effort leads to unexpected creative solutions.

During a charrette, the design team is constantly reviewing their work with key stakeholders through a series of short feedback loops. This feedback assures that their creative solutions are grounded in reality, reflecting the needs of the key participants. Charrettes promote focused creativity based in reality, which leads to reduced rework and better plans.


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