...Dan (Saffer) and Adaptive Path’s Todd Wilkens, one of the four-member author team for “Subject to Change,” think it’s high time high-techie types switch off their Blackberries, Sidekicks, iPhones, and all other buzzing and vibrating communication devices during biz meetings. Even more radical, they hope to persuade us to go topless–meaning close our laptops (laptop-less)–and make eye contact instead.
More precisely, here's a list!
- No rules without reasons. Don’t just ban laptops and handhelds with no explanation. Make sure to point out how important it is that the group focus on the task at hand. It’s very hard to argue with that.
- Be the bad guy. Someone has to be the one to stand up to the social pressure. It can be an uncomfortable prospect but it is necessary. Luckily, you’ll find that many people secretly want to have the excuse to disconnect and focus. They just don’t want to take the risk of making people upset. Don’t be afraid to make people a little uncomfortable in the name of productivity.
- Consequences. You don’t need a slap on the wrist or a time out to make this work. Social pressure is powerful. No one wants to be called out in front of a group. Make sure they know you are not afraid to do this if you see them breaking the rule. (Note: I learned this trick teaching sociology to undergrads.)
- For short sessions: point out that there are few things that you will get via email that can’t wait until the end of an hour meeting. If you need to deal with a phone call or urgent message, get up and leave the room.
- For long sessions: include regular 15-20 minute breaks and let people know these are there explicitly to give them time to check in on things.
- Out of hand, out of mind. Have everyone put their phone/mobile device in a box or on a counter in the corner of the room. We all know that it is nearly impossible to ignore a vibrating device in your pocket. Just admit it and account for it.
- State the costs. If you are a consultant, remind them that they are paying you $XXX an hour to watch them check their email. I’ve found that to be extremely effective.
For the record, I'm in favor of every kid and teacher having a networked laptop, with the understanding that they don't have the right or responsibility to use it all the time, ok?