Squashing the Blackberry

Our obsession with mobile devices is stifling creative discourse and destroying the art of conversation. The Secret Engineer has a solution.

Something has changed over the past few years here at Amalgamated Products Limited and it is not a change for the good.

Once upon a time meetings were only interrupted by an occasional phone call (“no – I must take this because I really am so terribly important”) or the gentle snoring of the Work Package Manager sat in the corner.

Now as matters of great import are discussed there will be the persistent tapping of people composing e-mails, skyping and getting their personal best score on Mario-Super-Hedgehog for all I know  – sounding like a plague of Death Watch Beetles in a table-tennis bat factory. In fact I sometimes get the impression that people try to get invited to meetings just so that they have the opportunity to catch up with their correspondence uninterrupted. Not only is it intensely irritating but I put it to you, my friends, that it is also counterproductive.

whenever there’s a meeting you can barely see the table for the damned things

On the one hand people are at least seen to be “multi tasking” and making the most of their waking hours between, given their rabid eagerness to please, the presumably tedious periods of whatever passes for life outside of work. An aura of committed professionalism is pervaded, 110% given to the cause of ramping up the profits for the share holders by not wasting a millisecond on anything other than visible activity; time wasted on “thinking” for instance.

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Mobile devices are a distraction in meetings

I can see how it started; some top bod will have got out his Kumquat, Eye-Telephone or laptop and smugly displayed his superiority and importance by flaunting it in front of the assembled acolytes. Of course they would have clamoured to follow his every move, this will then have dripped down through the hierarchy and now whenever there’s a meeting you can barely see the table for the damned things.

However, this leaves me sat toying with my pencil whilst listening to the topic of the day and wondering what the purpose of a meeting actually is? E-mail alone can disseminate information, allow for discussion and enable decision making. Surely then, the sole advantage of a meeting is that the dynamic allows for the cross fertilisation of ideas – the spark of invention and innovation that can only be struck though lively conversation and immediate debate?

As if this weren’t cause enough to ban the shiny electronic gee-gaws I have also witnessed various attendees looking up in open-mouthed incomprehension like some idiot child when asked a question, oblivious to what was being said as they were lost in the ethereal  traffic of the interweb. By self-inflicted exclusion the multi-taskers remove themselves from the group activity and stop the meeting from being as effective as it should be.

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that I’m currently planning on slipping a claw hammer into my next meeting as a subtle counter-measure to such devices – all for the good of the company of course.