Hello, I am Hayashi from Questetra’s Marketing Department.

In recent years, the term “multitasking” has become commonplace in the business world. Originally a computer term, it has the meaning of performing multiple tasks at the same time. When companies are recruiting, multitasking is often used to describe someone who can perform a variety of tasks. It is true that a single person can perform a wide variety of tasks simultaneously! That’s what a successful businessman looks like.

Recently however, many have been critical of this multitasking approach to work.

On the other hand, one method of streamlining and improving business processes is to introduce parallel processing. Multitasking, which involves processing multiple tasks simultaneously, and parallel processing are similar but different.

This article describes such multitasking and the introduction of parallel processing in business processes.

Aren’t Humans Good at Multitasking?

Suddenly, there is an opinion that the human brain is not suited for multitasking.

Doctors and scholars in Japan and abroad have made various arguments about this, including the following

  • (Even though they are multitasking), they are not processing tasks at the same time, but just switching between tasks (*).
  • Multitasking decreases productivity
  • Multitasking stresses and exhausts the brain

etc.

This may make you think that multitasking has no merit, but this is not the first time this argument has been made.

* From the research of Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Eyal Ofir

Reference: Why Multitaskers Are Rather Unproductive (Diamond Online) https://diamond.jp/articles/-/139207

Multitasking and the Nagarazoku Culture

Toward the end of the 1950s, a period of rapid economic growth, the term “nagarazoku” appeared in Japan.

This term was used to ridicule the new lifestyles of the time, such as studying while listening to the radio or eating while watching TV, but it also seems to be the same as multitasking.

In fact, many people on the Internet have expressed various opinions about the similarities and differences between multitasking and “nagarazoku”. It is interesting to note that the term “multitasking” was originally used with a rather positive connotation, whereas “nagarazoku” has come to be used more critically as referring to young people who cannot concentrate (on one thing). Is this also due to the changing times?

The term “nagarazoku” is now considered obsolete, but last year the government published an article in a public relations magazine titled “Stop Using Your Smartphone While Driving”. It is true that doing A and B at the same time is distracting. When driving a car, doing other things at the same time can lead to a serious accident. Trying to concentrate while driving can be tiring for the brain. In particular, be careful when using your eyesight, because it is easy to get distracted. If you are multitasking at a level that is similar to the nagarazoku, it is probably best not to do so.

Reference: Don’t do it! Using Your Smartphone While Driving Can Result in a One-shot Suspension! (Government of Japan Public Relations Office Online) https://www.gov-online.go.jp/useful/article/201707/2.html

So What Are the Benefits of Multitasking?

As I mentioned earlier in my introduction, one of the advantages of multitasking is that you can work on many things at the same time, which speeds up your response time to requests and communications. Another benefit is that you can get a bird’s eye view of your work and grasp the big picture more easily because you are looking at a variety of projects and tasks at the same time.

However, this method of working on multiple projects at the same time is not for everyone. In fact, some studies have shown that 98% of people’s performance declines when they work on multiple tasks at the same time*. When multitasking, it is necessary to consider whether or not it is suitable for you.

If you are experiencing problems or fatigue with the multitasking approach to work, you may want to shift to a single-tasking approach, where you get one job done at a time, in order and at a steady pace.

* From a study by David Strayer, head of the Applied Cognition Lab at the University of Utah

Reference: 2% of super humans who are good at simultaneous work (WIRED) https://wired.jp/2012/03/01/multitasking/

The Concept of Parallel Processing

Now, let’s talk about workflow.

It is obvious, but even if the human brain is not suited for multitasking, computers certainly are. If a system is capable of multitasking, it can perform multiple tasks in parallel.

By the way, the definitions of the terms “parallel” and “parallel processing” are ambiguous. This is true for parallel processing and concurrent processing as well, but here I would like to define them as follows.

  • Concurrent processing: processing multiple tasks in a fixed amount of time
  • Parallel processing: processing multiple tasks simultaneously in a given amount of time

In the case of concurrent processing, however, it is not always the case that multiple tasks are processed at the same time; if there are two tasks, A and B, they may be processed by switching tasks in detail, A→B→A→B. In some cases, concurrent processing is defined as processing by such switching, which is the same as human multitasking.

Parallel processing, on the other hand, refers to a situation in which multiple tasks are processed simultaneously within a certain amount of time. Finding a point in a business process where parallel processing can be used in this way provides an opportunity to streamline operations and increase productivity.

The diagram below shows a flow of evaluations conducted in turn by the three teams of producers, manufacturing systems, and logistics. This is a situation in which work is completed in sequence, one by one.

In this work process, the next team cannot start evaluating until the team before it has finished, resulting in additional waiting time.

This is why the business process below incorporates parallel processing.

In this flow, when a product plan is proposed the evaluation task is sent to the three teams at the same time. This parallel processing cuts down on the time spent waiting for the previous team’s evaluation, thereby shortening the lead time from product planning to approval.

Even if individual multitasking fails to produce results, if such parallel processing can be introduced into business processes work can proceed simultaneously and efficiently.

※ For a detailed blog on parallel processing of business operations click here

Smoothly Changing Business Processes with Questetra BPM Suite

Incidentally, if you feel that there is a limit to multitasking, you may be able to improve the quality and productivity of your work by dividing the work into separate tasks.

Questetra BPM Suite provides strong support for changing and improving business processes by introducing such division of labor and parallel processing.

In Questetra BPM Suite, you can easily create a business process diagram as described in the above section by placing icons. After that, the business will automatically progress according to the created process diagram, so there is no need to manually pass the work to the next person.

In addition, most software such as workflow and BPM tools are difficult to set up on a server and prepare for use, but Questetra BPM Suite is a cloud-based service that can be used immediately after registration.

Why don’t you take this opportunity to visualize your existing business processes with Questetra BPM Suite, and verify what kind of workflow is best for you? Questetra BPM Suite has a free trial so you can easily start using it.

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