Going Topless…I Like It!

A few weeks ago I was at a meeting for a professional organization I belong to, giving a talk about privacy breach response, and the audience was great; around 40 in attendance, all visibly listening and interested and participating. I love to look and see everyone’s faces as I am talking; seeing if they are confused, in agreement, or otherwise are reacting to the ideas and recommendations I am talking about.
I was around 20 minutes into my talk when someone’s cell phone started ringing…playing a John Phillip Sousa march. LOUDLY. I kept talking, and everyone was still listening…trying to listen…but the darn phone kept playing! People then started looking around…and finally I stopped and said, “Does someone need to get that?” One of the folks then reached down and answered it; and then left the room. Quite an unnecessary interruption.

Several came to me afterwards and they launched into a long discussion about how people not only bring phones to meetings that cause a distraction, but an even bigger and more detrimental and growing problem, about how folks are more often bringing their Blackberries and laptops into meetings and doing their email, IMing, texting or twitting!
Folks, science has proven, more than once, that your mind cannot perform more than one task at a time. No matter how amazingly smart you are, even if you have an IQ of 1000 (yes, I know the measurements don’t go that high…the highest ever recorded is 228) you cannot be doing emails, IMs, or twitting and completely participate or comprehend what is going on in the meeting, or in your training session you are sitting in. Not only are you NOT completely aware of the conversation and proceedings, it also makes meetings and training sessions significantly less effective, not to mention being incredibly rude.
It’s rather ironic that I’ve heard so many folks talk about how IMs/txts/twits can be used to increase the humanity and bonding of coworkers within corporations when in fact emails/IMs/txts/twits actually drive intermittent but oft-occurring machine-gun earplugs into the brains and memories of those using them within meetings and and training sessions…resulting in gaping awareness holes in knowing what even went on around them for that hour or two or three.
I’m not saying emails/IMs/txts/twits should never be used within the business enterprise; to the contrary, they CAN be useful and valuable tools. But only when used appropriately.
On Monday evening I saw a report on ABC World News, “Going Topless to Office Meetings” and I said, “YES!” It is so good to see a high tech company, that embraces and sees the value in the vast array of communications tools, to also see how they can damage business meetings, relationships and productivity!
Here are some great excerpts from the story…

“Dogster co-founder John Vars said, “If someone’s typing away while you’re trying to talk, you’re not getting those natural human signals to see if someone’s interested or understands or even listening.””
“So far, Google, Yahoo and Apple are among the companies encouraging their employees to ditch high-tech distraction and engage with their colleagues.
Topless has gone beyond high-tech companies. Laptops are not allowed in some classrooms at USC’s law school. Etiquette coach Colette Swan said, “We are becoming an internalized society. We are living in our laptops, our cell phones, in our texting.”
The experts don’t call it attention deficit as much as continuous partial attention. As Swan said, “If you’re multi-tasking, no matter how good you are, you’re still half-ignoring someone else.””

Engaging with our colleagues…and actually looking in them in the eyes when we’re having a discussion…what a concept! Priceless!!
Do you allow laptops, smartphones and other communications devices in your business meetings? Why not ban them?! Your meeting will be more productive.
Do you allow laptops, smartphones and other communications devices in your information security and privacy training sessions? Why not ban them?! Your training will be more effective, your personnel will better understand how to safeguard information, and fewer incidents resulting from ignorance (because people weren’t paying full attention at training) will occur.
Those otherwise smart people who claim information security and privacy training is worthless probably are looking at the effectiveness of training where either the training content was bad (there’s a lot of it out there), or, also very likely, the participants were only half, or quarter, or less, paying attention while also doing their various types of messaging. Those otherwise smart people may have been some of those putting more attention to their emails/IMs/txts/twits than to the training and then claimed the training was worthless; DUH!
Give it a try; when having meetings and training sessions, go topless! See how your effectiveness improves.

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