I have been in the business of teaching people since the 80’s. I have spent many hours in front of large and small groups, helping them to become better leaders, managers and supervisors. Recently, I have noticed an interesting thing taking place when people come together to learn. During breaks, people have stopped visiting with each other, and are instead only interacting with their cell phones.
Years, ago when people came to a workshop or seminar, they sought out the content. They also sought out other people. During breaks, participants built networks of support and perspective. Regularly, I witnessed in-depth dialogue and visiting about life’s challenges and successes. People routinely caught up with each other at seminars. They enjoyed the time to share.
Now, when a break takes place during a workshop, the room empties out as people go outside to answer phone messages, to read e-mails, and to text people. Often, the training room is also quiet as people are absorbed in reading their tiny screens with great concentration and concern. Gone are the days of talking with fellow participants. Sharing collectively has started to become a thing of the past.
The new normal during seminars and workshops is constant texting, posting, connecting, searching and scanning. We are now more distracted than ever by electronic interruptions. It appears that we are attempting to live and work at the speed of software.
The challenge for many who truly want to learn is to set aside their electronic tether and to become actively engaged in the learning process and in-depth reflection that comes with quality learning. Rather than trying to become more efficient with our electronic devices, we need to relearn how to set them aside for a bit, and regain the ability to think long and hard about issues and topics which we care about.
I challenge all of us when we go to a meeting, workshop or seminar to put aside our addiction to instant-access and instead dive deeply into thinking carefully and thoughtfully about the world of leadership and the future. It is time to regain perspective and realize that relationships and learning are more valuable than e-mail and text messaging. While this may be a big step for many, it is an important one if we want to make a difference in the world where we serve and work.