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Topless meetings for team focus?

When it's hard to stay focused, try going 'topless' to meetings - San Jose Mercury News

Our good pals over at Adaptive Path have been experimenting with banning laptops and other communication devices in meetings (something I've supported in the past). From today's Mercury News:

Frustrated by distracted workers so plugged in that they tune out in the middle of business meetings, a growing number of companies are going "topless," as in no laptops allowed. Also banned from some conference rooms: BlackBerrys, iPhones and other personal devices on which so many have come to depend...

But as laptops have gotten lighter and smart-phones even smarter, people have discovered a handy diversion, making more eye contact these days with their screens than one another. The practice became so pervasive that Todd Wilkens turned to his company blog to wage his "personal war against CrackBerry..."

His San Francisco design firm, Adaptive Path, now strongly encourages everyone to leave their laptops at their desks. His colleague, Dan Saffer, coined the term "topless" as in "laptop-less." Also booted are mobile and smart-phones, which must be stowed on a counter or in a box during meetings. It took some convincing, but soon people began connecting with one another rather than with their computers, Wilkens said.

"All of our meetings got a lot more productive," he said.

[via Dan Saffer]

The Question to You

Has your team tried some version of topless meetings? How did it work for you? Anybody tried it and given up? How did the meetings change without the toys being on?

wtaylor's picture

Re: Topless meetings for team focus?

I teach at a medical school, & over the past 3 years, there has been a proliferation of laptops brought into the classroom; & our IT dept has responded to student requests to provide wireless access throughout the building. There are obvious pros & cons to all this.

Last fall, I contracted with a class, on an experimental basis, to ban open computers in the classroom setting. Now this is not about cyberphobia or old-school ludditism on my part - I'm an edugeek, I built & maintain our school's online learning management system, create multimedia learning objects for student use, &c. - but in the classroom setting, I was experiencing the presence of multiple black holes scattered about the room, sucking students' attention away from lecture, group discussion and active learning activities. Folks were using their laptops in the classroom setting in a variety of ways - taking notes, reviewing course material that should have been reviewed before arrival that day, checking email, surfing youtube, &c.

I had no student complaints or requests to end the experiment.

I did tho, anticipate a concern, and addressed this upfront - I promised my students that I would provide classroom activities that were worth their full undistracted attention, and asked them to let me know when I fell short on this promise.

This is a very important point; the t-shirt advertised on your page tells it all, really. We've all been in those meetings or classes, where there is much more of value to be gained by streaming John Stewart, or twittering away mystery science theater fashion with colleagues. If we take away the tecno-toys, we need to be prepared to be honest, & offer something of greater value.

Makes me wonder how much the techno-gadgets are the issue, v/s how much these are merely more visible modern surrogates for daydreaming, doodling, or just checking out generally? Perhaps the gadgets can be helpful to us as more visible indicators of how we have been disenfranchising our colleages/students all along - more visible and obvious indicators than the previous blank expressions.

Comes around to a principle of healing, tolle causam - treat the cause - don't merely suppress the symptomatic expression of disharmony. Perhaps we need to contract together to close the gadgets, and discern together the whats/wheres of their appropriate use; but we may need to allow their use to tell us something about how we operate our meetings/classrooms, and revise this in a way that does not leave folks wishing they were elsewhere at the moment - whether this is streaming the latest episode of lonelygirl15, or checking out in an old-school way independent of techno-gadgetry.




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