Since becoming a Scotwork consultant eight years ago, I have noticed a dramatic change in people’s behavior; and it’s not just happening here at home – it’s a worldwide phenomenon. My grandmother (God bless her) would have thought we had all gone mad, walking around with white things in our ears talking, apparently, to ourselves. Now and in addition, with smartphones enabling us to text, Facebook and WhatsApp as well as just talk, more and more of us are reading our mobile phones as we walk. My youngest daughter (17) never bothers to use her phone her phone as a phone at all (“Why would I want to speak to you Dad?”), but she answers any text message instantaneously!
You see them everywhere; men and women, adults and kids, walking with their eyes fixed to their devices. But walking and texting can be dangerous; I once saw a hapless teenager literally walk into a lamppost much to his chum’s amusement — and in Honolulu in Hawaii, they have decided that the rot has to stop.
They have created a new law which will take effect this week, allowing police to fine pedestrians $35 for reading their electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county. Honolulu is the first major city to enact such a ban, but many other cities around the world will be watching with interest.
“This is really milestone legislation that sets the bar high for safety,” said Brandon Elefante, the City Council member who proposed the bill. Pedestrians, he said, will share the responsibility for their safety with motorists.
Aside from the obvious dangers of being always ‘on’ when walking through busy streets, there has been a massive increase in stress certainly to an extent attributable to our faster, “now, now, now” lifestyles. Nearly half of all workers suffer from moderate to severe stress while at work, according to a recent survey. 66 percent of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work because of stress. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year.
In addition, stress removes or at least reduces most people’s (at least in my view) ability to be creative. There is no doubt that some and I would argue few, people seem to be at their most creative when under extreme pressure. Most of us from my observation retrench and become tunneled in our thinking.
One critical factor in negotiation is our ability to think creatively about elegant, value-enhancing solutions to problems. That requires us to go outside the legendary box that normally restricts our thinking and allow our minds to wander towards a solution. Switching off ourselves and our devices may just help us do that.
Perhaps we ought to be fined by our businesses if we don’t build time into our schedules to be more creative. As thinking becomes a much more important part of work, that may not be such a bad idea.