It was in a meeting the other day that I finally realised that I am getting old. As I made my weary way home, I mused on this sudden insight and found myself reminiscing about the old days, when meetings were meetings, and not a collection of people gathered
in a room devoting over 50% of their time to a call received on their mobile phone, or a message received on their Blackberry, or going through their inbox (and answering some of the emails) on a laptop they had brought in for the purpose, and I found myself
wondering how we had got to this sad state of affairs.
Call me old fashioned, but I was brought up to be told that, when you are in a meeting, or a meaningful conversation with someone, a telephone call is an unnecessary intrusion to be ignored. These days, it seems that everyone else in the room is to be
ignored if a communication comes in on one of these devices. How is that productive, to say nothing about the levels of respect for others in the room. It's some time ago now, but I recall one member of a meeting asking a question, then as they were being
responded to, pulling out their blackberry to read a message they had received - and then starting to type in a response. I was just glad it wasn't me that was replying to their question in the meeting, as I think I would have got up and left (or worse).
Gone are the days when everyone in the room was effectively sealed off, so everyone was fully attentive. Meetings are now so much longer and less productive, completely because people allow distractions. In the early days of the mobile phone, a meeting
would start with a request for all phones to be turned off - and anyone who didn't and whose phone rang was given killer stares by everyone else. In this meeting the other day, I found myself an island of incommunicado in a sea of distractions and, to be
honest, I felt quite affronted and more than a little sad that the rest of the attendees couldn't find it in themselves to provide everyone else in the room with their undivided attention for a while.
The mobile/Blackberry/Laptop are obviously good things in many respects, especially for business, but here is one area that, for me, has taken us backwards. Maybe it's my age, but I also think that their intrusion into meetings has also caused a serious
reduction in the effectiveness of meetings, and a general decline in standards of respect for colleagues at such gatherings. Companies should get a grip of this and ban the use of such devices in meetings.
Or am I the only one to think this?