Shailesh Kapoor: What’s Infecting Our TV Industry? Laptops!

28 Jun,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Conference room. Set for an important meeting that may have a decisive impact on the future of the channel, and by extension, on the future of everyone who works for it. About two dozen team members from various functions have been called to attend to a research presentation. Around the time of the meeting, they begin to saunter in one by one. There is chatter while they take their seats and wait for their big boss to join us.

 

In those five minutes, machines are flipped open, one after the other. Some are finishing “urgent” work, while some are checking emails and replying to pending ones. Productive use of time, I wonder. Of course, preparing yourself mentally for a meeting, even if you are just an audience, is supposed to be an old-school thought. There are still others in the room who are on their laptops, but you can see that they are trying to figure out what exactly to do with them. It’s just a medical condition. They have been surgically attached to their machines.

 

Then the big boss arrives. Sure enough, he/ she comes without a laptop, with full attention and interest in a meeting that he understands the importance of, more than anyone else. As we get set to start, I’m certain that the laptops will be ‘lid-shut’, either out of interest or because of protocol.

 

Curiously enough, that doesn’t quite happen. Only a handful (mostly the senior lot) keep their laptops aside and bring their full presence to the meeting. Others continue to “multi-task”. For the next two hours! The nature of the tasks has shifted too. Many are now using the laptops for note-taking. What they have taken note of, I’m not quite sure though.

 

The big boss is not concerned, it seems. He is into the subject material, engaging in discussions that don’t need any technology to support them. He may as well let the geeks carry on.

 

Then the big boss asks his team for some data or clarification in the meeting. Confusion erupts. At least 2-3 team members dig into their laptops trying to give him the answer. There is an undercurrent of who-comes-first. But it is more of the I-know-how-to-use-the-laptop-better-than-you kind. At the end of this thrilling race, the big boss has still not got the real answer he’s looking for. He sighs politely, and decides to move on.

 

This is the story of 80% broadcasters today, in varying degrees. It is also the story of many B-schools, I’m told, where students attend lectures with their machines “on them” all the time.

 

Having started my career in times when laptops were nearly unheard of and an internet connection was available on one shared machine for almost 200 people (which too shall remain mostly unoccupied, as many didn’t know what to do with it besides checking Hotmail), it is natural that I find this phenomenon deeply disturbing.

 

However, what concerns me a lot more is the weak foundation being built for the younger lot. Evidently, the laptop culture (especially prevalent in non-creative functions) does not put a premium on the importance of having an uncluttered mind to aid stimulating discussions. It also does not promote teamwork, given the inherently personal nature of the device in question.

 

In the old days, when we had a meeting, we’d “prepare” for it. We will read the relevant emails and documents, carry the necessary print-outs to the meeting, even keep our thoughts ready. Today, the laptop substitutes for all that.

 

My respect goes to the 20% companies who have managed to stay away from this epidemic. I’m not sure if they planned for it or their culture just ensured they were kept safe. But either way, they have a big advantage to protect!

 

Others may do well to take a deep look at their meeting protocols. It’s never too late.

 

PS: The mobile phone is another problem of epidemic proportions. But that’s for another day, another post.

 

Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor

 

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