I felt completely naked as I walked into the meeting at an undisclosed building in an undisclosed city. The reception area had stripped me of the electronic gadgets that I usually carry with me. Philosophic about this I thought no more of it confident that as promised they would be returned as I left the building. It didn’t seem to matter, well not until the meeting started.
I had no meeting papers. Usually they are sitting there waiting in a meeting filing system that is fool -proof as indeed they had been when I carefully read them the previous evening. All of my meetings are sitting on a virtual bookshelf in nice order thanks to a piece of software developed at Waikato University called Stellar Library. It is a lifesaver in a life punctuated with meetings.
But, no gadget, no papers. They printed off another set.
Then we reached a part of the meeting where I was asked for some detail about the project. No problem, I have a complete set of project papers with me. No! Wait a minute, they are in the same gadget as the meeting papers – different software but efficient nevertheless. But forget efficiency when you don’t have the gadget. I suggested that I phone the office for a set to be sent through to someone who was allowed a gadget. But of course I didn’t have the phone to send either a voice message or a text message.
They decided that it would be too much bother and take too much time and anyway the question didn’t matter all that much. This could have been a real problem but nothing could be done about it and we simply had to move on to the next topic.
It could be that we could set up another meeting. Well, that was more easily said than done – I didn’t have my phone therefore I didn’t have my diary, therefore I couldn’t ………
There is small amount of exaggeration in a quest to be apocryphal but not much – the basic facts are correct. What it underlined for me was the fact that we have become much more gadget dependent than we might imagine. There I was, by a simple request to hand over my iPad and my iPhone at the reception area, stripped of …………
- my meeting notes;
- my project files;
- my diary;
- my phone;
- my access to text messaging.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because I didn’t have my phone, my watch no longer notified me of all those things that digital gadgets like to notify us of. All it could do was tell the time and state the date! I often take notes on the iPad which can then be quickly shared with others. A quick snap with the camera on the phone can capture a diagram on the whiteboard or the screen and again save a lot of time. These things are no longer gadgets, they are the tools we use.
You see the convergence of connectivity and our reliance on these things has changed the way we work, despite perhaps trying not to we have become very reliant on them. I remember a staff member saying to me once when we experienced a power cut that closed down the networks (actually it didn’t – just shut off the screens and the CPUs) that “We may as well go home, we can’t do any work!” That was quite wrong because at that time filing was still a physical process and there was plenty of that. There were people to see, and so on.
We live in this changed world in which we are greatly assisted to do our work in ways that we never imagined. We rejoice in this connectivity when it works for us but curse when it doesn’t.
Was the meeting a waste of time as a result of my confiscated gadgets? Not al all. I haven’t gone over to the other side completely. I pulled out my notebook (the old kind, lined pages between covers) and my fountain pen and all was well. Ah yes, belt plus braces.