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The Energy Coach: Dave: Computers and Blackberries are making us less productive
David and I met at a networking lunch a few weeks ago. When he learned about our work at The Energy Project, he began to talk about the structure of his meetings. As the head of a business unit responsible for marketing and distributing auto parts in the US and Canada, David had twice monthly meetings with a team of approximately 20 people.
“These meetings last all day and I’m just not sure that’s necessary,” David told me as we ate. “Despite all my attempts to keep people focused, I feel like having computers and Blackberries in the room makes us less productive.”
“My colleagues use their computers to take notes,” he explained. “But they are also looking at email or doing other things. I’ve lost track of the number of times when the discussion changes course because someone checks their Blackberry and engages the group to solve an issue that is not either particularly urgent or important.”
Have you ever been in a meeting like that?
As more and more companies provide laptops to employees and move to paperless environments, computers are becoming commonplace in meetings. I personally find it more efficient to take notes on my computer—it saves the step of transferring the notes, I can distribute the notes more quickly to people, and I have everything in one place. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I can get distracted when I see an email that is about something other than the topic at hand, or when I’ve tried to squeeze in some small task.
Linda Stone, a researcher in the field of Interruption Science, coined the term “continuous partial attention” to describe the way that many of us use our attention today. We are constantly scanning our environment, she says, for better opportunities or activities, and we are driven by a desire to not miss anything. Unfortunately, the result is that we are often in a distracted state of high alert, unable to fully focus on any one thing.
After hearing about the research on continuous partial attention, David decided he was going to immediately change the way he runs his meetings. He decided to forbid laptops during the meetings and insist that Blackberries be placed on a side table. The team could access them during breaks, but would put them aside when the group reconvened.
I gave him a call last week to see how the experiment was going.
“We’ve cut our meeting time in half!” David told me excitedly. “There has been a dramatic shift not only in our efficiency, but also in the quality of focus and decision-making.
“Interestingly,” he continued, “people have said that they feel much more respected by one another because people are listening more closely. It has been a major shift in the way we work together and it is having a positive impact on the business”.
What steps could you take to minimize distractions in the meetings you hold?
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I love this idea as when you are trying to get a point across and the audience is not even looking at you is intimidating and I find you have to repeat the point a few times...I am going to suggest this at our next get together....let you know what the results were!!??
by Helen Hamilton
@ 2010/12/03 10:14:42 AM