Editorials

Are Smart Phones Really Smart?

I have a contract with my children regarding the use of their electronic devices. One of the things in our contract says that we will maintain transparency. I have the right (and responsibility) to look at their activity online. To be fair, they have the same right with my devices; true transparency is a two way street.

I tell you this because I have been following through, reading some of their texting and group chat chains, and I don’t want you to get mad at me. As an aside, many businesses have complete access to your activity on their networks and devices. As I was reading their chats a couple of things emerged that may have confirmed some observations I have been making.

Young people coming into the workforce do not know how, or prefer not, to communicate efficiently. Let me explain. At least in the USA, school aged people have found an affinity to the smart phone. They can use them during class time to communicate without disrupting those around them. This is a great capability of texting or chat, the fact that you can maintain a silent conversation, even with multiple people. The problem is that it performs at the speed of…well, don’t use the word speed.

Another thing I saw constantly was miscommunication. If you don’t reply to a message from someone within a few minutes, you get more texts asking if your mad or something. So, in order to not communicate something that isn’t true you have to be vigilant to new messages, and respond quickly.

What’s interesting is that message users get to a point where communication over their electronic devices is preferred over talking to the person right beside them. A problem that can be solved in a two minute conversation takes many more minutes to complete using messaging technology.

I work more and more with people having grown up with these devices and find that they are unable to keep up in a fast paced IT department when it comes to communication. That is not to say that messaging does not play a big part in communication in IT. I am saying that it is not always my first choice, nor do I spend a lot of time dealing with a text that may come to me.

In my opinion, smart devices haven’t made is better at communicating. They don’t enhance our abilities or make us any smarter, if we use them in an in-efficient method. We have a lot of great tools available to us now that allow us to work smarter, in remote locations, with less disruption to those around us. I believe we can find ways to use them that are the most efficient for the current scenario.

Cheers,

Ben

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  • Eilenblogger

    I agree and disagree simultaneously.

    I agree that a quick 2 minute conversation can be useful in solving a problem and the texting can be less efficient and take longer.

    Where I disagree is that the methods of communication by younger folks are on the whole, less efficient.

    The reason is that they are multitasking. They are having multiple conversations concurrently. Each on a different thread from the other and some in group chats.

    This is all done “shorthand” or more succinctly, in a language in which us older folks are less proficient.

    Also the two minute conversation never really is a two minute conversation. It often deviates into social conversation and gossip. The next thing you find yourself doing is walking 10 feet back to the coffee pot as the two minute conversation continues.

    The methods of communication better equip them to function remotely too.

    So people like you and me seem to need to be more verbose and nuanced in our body language and the spoken language. It’s because we didn’t grow up with the ability to instantly communicate with anyone anywhere at any time.

    What is more efficient or better for you isn’t necessarily more efficient or better for someone else. It just seems that way.

    I think it is incumbent on the older generation to engage the younger generation on their terms. Then as the more seasoned professional, you would be better equipped to call a quick huddle via a group chat.

    “Hey everyone, let’s​ meet in the Aspen room post haste and make sure we’re on the same page”.

    Let them bring their devices to the ad hoc meeting so they can continue to multitask. They’ve grown up multitasking. They’ve got their nose in the phone and they hear every word you are saying.

    Maybe???

    • Ben

      There are many places where social media out-performs traditional conversation. My boss, 40+ years of age, turns off instant messaging most of the time, doesn’t text at all, and prefers Email as his communication method. This drives me crazy. It it too slow. Especially since he isn’t in the office 50% of the time.

      This is important to me not because I can’t multi task. It is important because I feel there are different kinds of conversations that need to happen. If I need an immediate short answer, an IM or text is the BEST in my mind. I can send and forget. They should respond quickly since I used an Immediate form of communication. I should jump to the front of the queue.

      If I have something more substantial, I can send an email, and have a longer expectation of a response. Maybe an hour or a day. I’m not blocked and things can move forward.

      If using any of the above techniques results in too many round trips, pick up the phone and get it done, or schedule a time to meet and solve the problem.

      What I find frustrating are teams I have worked with, all under 30, that insist all communication be over IM or Text. ALL conversation. They are not multi-tasking. They are just toooooo slow.

      AAAAAAND, as we know, people are not any better at multi-tasking than computers. The time for the context switch is a painful price to pay.

      That’s my experience. I have worked remotely for a number of years with great success. But that doesn’t assume the only or best way to communicate is though typing, I simply can’t think that slowly.

      • Eilenblogger

        The folks under 30 probably say things like “the old guys just want to yap yap yap. I wish they would just answer my text instead of going into those laborious conversations”.