Please Stow All Electronic Devices

I always groan a little when a flight attendant instructs passengers to stow all electronic devices. I usually scramble to check one last message or type one final sentence, and more than once I have been tapped on the arm and told, “Miss, you’ll need to put that away so we can take off.”

Well, what if we received similar instructions before a meeting began? What if we were all required to put everything away and face forward and actually pay attention—through the entire agenda?

I’m a big believer in the power of threes, so a recent trio of messages regarding where and when to use phones, laptops, and iPads made me think the universe was trying to send me a message.

First, I began hearing and reading news reports about restaurants that offer discounts to patrons willing to check their phones at the door or that refuse to serve customers who attempt to order food while talking on their devices.

A second sign from the universe arrived during a conversation with a colleague who had been asked to present at a regular gathering, but had declined to do so. “No one pays attention at those meetings,” he explained. “Eighty percent of them would be reading their e-mail instead of listening to me, so I just told them I was busy.”

A third sign came in the form of “A Losing Battle,” a post in which Rob Jenkins, my On Hiring blog colleague, questioned the practice of imposing technology restrictions on students in order to get them to pay attention.

Restaurants saying, “Enough, already.” Presenters refusing to present. Faculty members trying to create Facebook-free zones. It seems our electronic options have moved from revolutionary to just plain annoying.

There are, of course, people who use iPads and such to actually take meeting notes, but because everyone else is busy making dinner reservations, reading The Huffington Post, or checking Twitter feeds, it is easy to assume that the diligent note takers are doing the same.

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