Business and smartphones

I am currently immerse in a very entertaining book from Nassim Nicholas Taleb called “The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable” where he argues, in one chapter, that all the information that is dumped on us, on a minute by minute basis nowadays, is bad for knowledge and does not help at all in making the right decisions or predictions.

It made me think of the craziness around us about smartphones (Blackberry, iPhone, etc.). In some business environments, you really are “a nobody” without such a gadget.

Indeed, without it, one may rapidly be categorized by colleagues as “not connected, not aware of what’s going on” which might have a slight negative impact if you are highly career oriented and feel the urge to answer to your boss a millisecond after having received a message from him.

Apart from the fact that the keyboard of this kind of apparatus is highly impractical and that most of the applications are useless, what value does it really add to the majority of those people we see carrying one? Answer: none apart from looking busy and important 24 hours a day and giving a sense of urgency to subjects that are NOT.

I was seating at a table last week, attending a conference on all the fancy things you can do with a mobile phone. I could not help observing the other people seating at my table. None, I stress none, were listening at what the presenters were saying. They spent most of the day, including lunch, exchanging e-mails from their Blackberry (no offense to the other suppliers!).

Despite the fact that I have been working over the last 16 years on some fancy projects where the use of smartphone was seen as the holly grail to unlock new commerce channels, I do not have a smartphone and use a mobile for the only purpose of giving/receiving calls and, ideally, as little as possible.

Call me old fashioned, but I do not need all this information and I do not feel an urge to respond in a nanosecond to mostly useless messages. On the other hand, I can remember a large part of what was said at this conference. I doubt that many of the other attendees seating at my table can!!

If I was their boss (luckily I am not), I would be seriously annoyed to have paid a large amount of money from my, nowadays, cut-back budget to send carefully selected “happy fews” to such events to see that, apart from not listening to presenters, they did not event take the time to socialize with other attendees, which is traditionally one of the main reason to go to conferences… Too busy with their smartphones!