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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?

mshea's picture

Two sides of the story

I banned laptops from my weekly staff meetings and actually caught shit for it today. I even caught a couple of people sneaking time with their Palms and iPhones.

I think there are two sides to this story.

Like one of the posters above, the fact that people are on their laptops and PDAs during a meeting means that the meeting isn't engaging them fully. That's no surprise since meetings have a very low information / time ratio per person.

I think there are two things that need to happen.

  1. The person running the meeting has to help ensure that the meeting engages the minds of the people in the meeting as much as possible.

In return, the participants of the meeting have to do what they can to make the meeting productive by paying attention, shutting up when they have nothing worth saying, and saying what is worth saying as briefly as possible.

All of the other good meeting rules apply:

Don't have a meeting unless it is absolutely necessary.

Have a clear agenda and goal for the meeting.

Stick to a preset meeting duration.

Cut off and "take off line" people who can't shut up.

If someone is running a meeting according to good meeting practices, they have the right to ban laptops and pdas to ensure those who attended are engaged. They owe it to everyone else in the room.




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