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Consulting Group Finds Most Technology Savers Aren't

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

In a monthly poll of its international membership, The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC®) has found that executives who pride themselves on using time-saving technology are often wasting more time than they're saving.

"The most egregious example we found," says Alan Weiss, Ph.D., CEO of SAC, "is leaving a cell phone on so that anyone can interrupt you at any time, utilizing their time well, but not yours." The best use of cell phone technology, the group found, is using cell phones to check messages and return calls on your own terms, but never allowing yourself to be at the beck and call of others. "Unless you're a doctor on call," adds Weiss, "this is simply a huge time waster maintained by egos which like to be seen answering calls in public."

SAC member John Carroll, CEO of Unlimited Performance in Mount Pleasant, SC, found that the best example of a time saver that isn't is handheld, wireless access to one's e-mail. He reports: "Without this anywhere-you-go capacity, you're somewhat limited to checking e-mail while you're stationary, perhaps at your desk or with your lap top in the airport or hotel room. With this capacity in hand, however, you're tempted, as I see time and again, to utter distraction for what is likely the next piece of useless spam dropping into your inbox. Add to the assault on one's attention the alarm or vibration announcing the spam's arrival and you've removed every safe place to think and reflect as long as the offending tech tool is within arm's reach."

There are two forms of technology-wasters: inappropriate technology, and inappropriate use of otherwise appropriate technology. And example of inappropriate technology would be constantly upgrading software that already serves its purpose and is underutilized in its present form. An example of inappropriate use would be the "multi-taskers," who speak on hands-free phones while writing, or eating, or boarding planes. "Most of these people," observes Weiss, "wind up providing insufficient responses to the caller, drop their luggage, write a poor memo, and spill their food on themselves." Weiss cites a top executive at a meeting who conducted it with a phone ear piece, with a constantly blinking blue light in his ear for the entire meeting. "No one paid any attention to anything but that strobing light in his ear, and he was oblivious to the inattention."

SAC estimates, anecdotally, that technological time improvements on the personal, executive level, are less than half as effective as claimed due to these shortcomings. "But the individuals who exploit the positives and abstain from the negatives," observes Weiss, "are the ones running ahead of the pack."

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