If you can’t have someone’s full attention, do you want their advice?

Experts say a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get in a crash than someone who is paying attention. I wonder what the stats are on the chance of getting bad advice from people who are splitting their attention between their e-Mail and the conversation in the room?

The other day this all came home for me in two specific moments and I will not be attending meetings with one eye on my e-Mail any more. I will be participating fully or taking a break to feed the e-Mail addiction.

I was driving (something I don’t do much living in New York) and I had one of those moments where you look up from the screen, your eyes get big, and you have to take evasive action to avoid a crash. My heart raced for the next 5 minutes and I was reminded how stupid it is to pay attention to anything besides what you are currently doing.

Later that day, I was in a meeting and everyone had their laptop out (me included). Presentations were made, discussion ensued. I found everyone (including me) floating in and out of the conversation, looking up and paying attention but really dividing attention between the  internet and the meeting…then I had one of those moments where you look up from the screen, your eyes get big, and you have to take evasive action to avoid a crash. The room was quiet, and everyone was looking at me. Waiting for an answer or an opinion? Looking for a perspective on an important challenge? I didn’t know because I was looking at my e-Mail.
My heart raced for the next 5 minutes and I was reminded how stupid it is to pay attention to anything besides what you are currently doing – and how dangerous it is to give advice without giving your full attention.

Founders should ban laptops and mobile devices from meetings to save VCs from themselves. If you can’t have someone’s full attention, why would you want their advice?

If people need it, offer a break for e-mail checking every hour, but demand complete attention between the breaks. You lose some time, but even with 15 minute breaks each hour, 45 minutes of focus is better than 60 minutes of distraction.