43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

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?

fwade's picture

Missing the Key Ingredient

I agreed that this is indeed a problem, but putting in a ban seems to be taking a step that puts the emphasis on the meeting chair, rather than the participants. (I agree with the point that Liz Williams made here.)

The source of the problem is simple -- poor individual practices.

If I am in the meeting, then it deserves to receive 100% of my attention, with no distractions. Otherwise, I ruin its purpose, hamper my own participation, and slow things down for others (the same goes for coming in late) when I distract myself with anything that takes me away from the meeting's purpose.

A meeting with everyone at 100% attention, should last a shorter time than one with bits and pieces of attention here and there, and should be of higher quality.

A participant who doesn't know how to manage their attention needs some training in how to get themselves into the flow state more often, and how to maintain it. Otherwise, they ruin meetings without even knowing it.

This training is sadly lacking, even as the number of distractions has increased, and will only increase in future.

Unfortunately, more powerful, smaller and less epxensive PDA's are the wave of the future. Without this kind of training, meetings will only get much worse.

The irony is, this is an excellent example of a case where more technology is leading to less productivity -- in the same way that a gun in the home can lead to less security.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »