Interestingly, the school district I work for has issued every member on the district-wide leadership team Chromebooks. We’re supposed to bring our Chromebooks with us to all meetings because, instead of printing paper, the agenda and anything that can be, is distributed to us electronically. In our meetings people are constantly going online and offline during the course of the meeting. We’re emailing and chatting with one another, scheduling next steps, making team notes on a Google doc, performing internet searches on things said, and so on. Of course, with all of this coordinated computer use during meetings, there are times when we get distracted by something that’s off-topic; but for the most part, I believe we stay on task even more with Chromebooks in front of us than we did before this was our norm.
When I read in Haydn Shaw’s Sticking Points about the sales manager “outlawing cell phones” in meetings (p 182), I thought she was a bit over the top. My next thought was, why not make the meeting more engaging? People generally get off task when they do not sense a connection or relevance to what’s happening in the meeting.
Shaw talks about how Baby-boomers and Traditionalist had a high tolerance for sitting through boring lectures. Gen Xers and Millennials don’t quite have this skill. Further, sitting through a lecture is no indication that a person is staying mentally plugged-in to it. I actually have the ability to sit through boring lectures, while in my mind, going far, far away. What’s more productive to the business? Being on a computer or smartphone and staying engaged, or sitting, looking at the PowerPoint while thinking about something completely different? If the latter is most important, perhaps the generational sticking point has more to do with perceptions about respect than it does meetings. Perhaps you should try using these technological devices to boost collaboration during meetings. Work with it… There’s no use in fighting against it.