I just saw this article (via Beth Kanter’s Twitter feed) about the evils of smartphones. In this particular article, Sheldon Yellen talks about being a more effective CEO by continuing to use his old flip phone.
He says this: “… keeping my flip phone and saying “no” to constant interruptions was one of my most profitable business decisions.” He then goes on to talk about all the distractions that a smartphone introduces (like he’d know, since he still uses a flip phone).
He then talks about how distracting smartphones can be: “One of the main factors in my decision was the distraction that smartphones introduce. I’ve seen people stare under the table in meetings, glued to an app rather than contributing.” Yeah. So, when you were noticing your employees checking their email rather than being attentive in your meetings? That means the meeting was boring. Stop holding boring meetings! Problem solved.
Then Sheldon provides four “benefits” to going without a smartphone. Here’s the list of benefits with my comments:
1. Increased efficiency. He thinks that freeing oneself from smartphone apps makes you more productive. Then he talks about how Facebook costs U.S. employers $28 billion in lost productivity annually. First of all, the article Sheldon points to doesn’t mention anything about the Facebook mobile app, so it’s a bad comparison for his article. Secondly, there are quite a few articles that talk about how Facebook makes employees MORE productive at work. And of course, there’s the added irony that his own company has a Facebook Page.
2. Direct Communication. Here, he’s confusing his preferred method of communication (phone calls and taking notes by hand) with something that works for everyone. Simply not true. For example, I type faster than I write, and when I want to remember something, I email it to myself and stick it in a folder for later recall.
3. More mental exercise. Sheldon thinks that doing things like calculating tips makes your brain work better, rather than relying on smartphones. Hmm … have any proof of that? Because there are plenty of articles that claim our digital devices just might be making us smarter.
4. Business diplomacy. Sheldon doesn’t really talk about “business diplomacy” here. He talks about Facebook friends not being real friends, and how it’s better to talk to people offline. Sure. Agreed. But … that doesn’t really have anything whatsoever to do with owning a smartphone. So … ??
I’m pretty sure most of you lovely readers know this – owning a smartphone is not the issue here. Here’s what I’d suggest to Sheldon: get a smartphone and really learn how to use it. Use it for 3-6 months. Have someone help you find some really useful productivity apps.
Then write another article about the experience. Hard to write about the evils of a smartphone if you’ve never owned one!
Phone photo by Thord Daniel Hedengren