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Driven To Distraction—“Love The One You’re With”

by David Brock on May 4th, 2019

In November, 1970, Stephen Stills released his hit single, “Love The One You’re With.” In 1971, it hit 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Some extracted lyrics

“If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slip away…….

Love the one you’re with….”

It happened earlier today. I was in sitting in an executive review. We were looking at the plan for a major change initiative we would be introducing. The project owner, a Regional VP was standing in front of his PowerPoints outlining the plan. The other RVPs, the EVP of Sales the Sales Ops VP and a couple of others were sitting around the table.

As I watched the dynamic, several had their PCs open. Their fingers were flying over the keyboards….they weren’t taking notes. A few had their mobile’s sitting on the table, you could hear them vibrating, see the furtive glance, every once in a while, someone would send a quick text.

Every once in a while the presenter would ask a question, people would look up at him and his charts, asking, “Hmmm, what did you say…..”

Afterwards, we went to lunch in the company cafeteria. People were sitting at tables, you’d see some conversations, but at the same time, most people were also looking that their phones, sending text, reading their feeds, interacting with people they didn’t know, probably would never meet, who may have been 1000’s of miles away. And they were paying little attention to the person sitting across the table from them. And those people were, in turn, focused on their own devices.

All were in active conversations, just not with the people they were with…..

It’s amazing that our feeds, social networking apps, and messaging apps get more attention than the people nearest us–the people sitting in meetings, the people we lunch with, the people we work with.

Is it at all surprising that engagement, productivity, teamwork are all plummeting, when more of our attention is focused on “conversations” with people we don’t know and are likely to never meet?

I’ve become particularly attentive to the device distraction to which we all seem to succumb. Recently, I started using an app that limits the time I spend on my device. I’ve also taken to turning my phone off in every meeting (not vibrate mode, off).

Since I am no longer distracted by my device, I spend a lot of time observing what’s happening around me, in meetings, as I wander through client facilities, airports, meals. We are not “connected” with the people physically closest to us. We are not paying attention to the people we are supposedly working with. We are not present in the workplace, our immediate communities, and our families.

It seems to be a tragic loss!

Paraphrasing some of Stills’ lyrics:

“Don’t be angry – don’t be sad
Don’t sit crying over good times you’ve had
There are colleagues in a meeting with you
And they’re just waiting for something to do

Talk to the ones you’re with….”


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