A headline asking the same caught my eyes at CNN Business this morning. The article quoted researchers from the University of Texas at Austin who claimed that the presence of phones prevents us from learning effectively. Smart phones and laptops distract us. Using them is disrespectful towards others in the meeting.
I agree with every word. I would even add that another reason why those mobile devices are a distraction is that you miss the body language of the person who is speaking at the time. Body language represents 55% of communications, and that mobile device just deprived you of more than half of what was communicated to you.
A few years ago I facilitated a strategy development workshop for the top management of a public technology company. I laid down a rule that no laptops or cell phones were allowed in that meeting. I then "scouted" the facility a few weeks in advance of the meeting. Upon my return to the company, I gave them the good and bad news. The good news were that cell phones WILL be allowed during the workshop. The bad news were that there was no cellular coverage within a 10-mile radius...
The problem I have with the article is with the word "ban." As you know by now, I'm not big on policy. Policy is a way of substituting common sense and individual thinking.
What I like to see is that a team creates its own ground rules to holding a meeting, recognizing the distraction that those mobile devices create, and decides, as a team, to not use them. When the "ban" comes from the team itself, as opposed to a company policy, it promotes team effectiveness and creativity.