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30TH March 2011

Business Tricks - Creative problem Solving - Culture - Leadership - Mobile - Uncategorized

Put DOWN that MOBILE phone! No don’t. Hold it, what ARE you doing? OK, NP

In so many ways, my DNA is old school. Hold the door. Say “please” and “thank you.” Be attentive to others’ needs. Listen first, speak after understanding. BUT we’re in the midst of an epic transformation in mobile communications, and something is being lost in the shuffle.

Namely, mobile manners. While taking analog notes have been a part of “paying attention” for generations, the advent of thumbs-on-screens is less than five years old. An Intel study on Mobile Manners quotes Genevieve Bell, head of interaction and experience research, Intel Labs:

“New digital technologies are becoming a mainstay in consumers’ lives, but we haven’t yet worked out for ourselves, our families, communities and societies what all the right kinds of behaviors and expectations will be,” Bell said. “Our appropriate digital technology behaviors are still embryonic, and it’s important for Intel and the entire industry to maintain a dialogue about the way people use technology and our personal relationships with technology as they continue to help shape societal and cultural norms.”

Consider this: in a business setting of ten or less, most people would accept note-taking with pen and paper as polite.  Even a napkin is accepted. But  replace that snazzy notebook with a PC and it’s rude.  A smartphone seems even worse. And a tablet… who knows?  Taking written notes and converting them later is accepted, but horribly inefficient.

The new digital equivalent involves taking notes via mobile phone,  tablet, or a PC, with a screen up. Using Twitter streams for ideas. Posting on Facebook.

So what’s the big difference between these two scenarios? A few hundred years, give or take, of tradition. Pencils and pens get a free pass based on history. But thumbs on a screen are new. Too many people wonder what you’re up to because of its awesome power to communicate with anyone for anything at anytime. You COULD be taking notes….or score checking…or flirting.  It’s hard to tell with mobile. Move the meeting to a conference for fifty, and you’re less likely to get a frown for your mobile manners, but you’re still not considered to be properly engaged, let alone respectful.

I’m certainly no saint with my personal mobile behavior, and my investments are probably only aggravating the situation. Mojiva is now providing 15,000,000,000 ads per month on mobile devices and apps (which allows publishers to… make more pages and apps) and Cellufun, which diverts attention for 250,000 people a month, 15 minutes at a time. But at least I’ll admit it.

Emily Post chimes in on Mobile Manners with an interesting point: while we’re  easily aggravated by others who make mobile faux pas, we’re not so good at calling our own. She suggests “finding your number”:  notice how many times you use your mobile device in a way that would bother you if someone else did it.  Interesting perspective.

So here’s my point: mobile devices aren’t rude, but people who make poor choices with mobile devices can be. Mobile is here to stay, and a younger generation will eventually use them in more ways than we can imagine now. Working with and leading teams that include them will require everyone to be open to the new possibilities mobile delivers, but we still need to prove we’re engaged. So keep the conversation moving forward. Stay on topic. Never miss a question. Emit no volume. Never leave the room (digitally speaking) for prolonged periods (30 seconds is my goal). And never utter “whoa” with mouth agape while staring at your phone.

Please share your thoughts… anyway you choose!


Fantastic 15 minutes on leadership in a digital world from Four-star General Stanley McChrystal at #TED.

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