Last updated: It’s time to embrace modern mobile literacy

It’s time to embrace modern mobile literacy


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Imagine that you’re standing at the head of the boardroom table in front of 20 colleagues. As you speak and look around the room, you notice that half of the participants aren’t even looking at you—they’re busy typing and texting on their devices.

How does this make you feel?

The answer some people give to this question reveals a great deal about their attitude toward—and acceptance of—technology.

Some say it’s rude for meeting participants not to focus on the speaker, but others will see the behavior as a necessary component of business life. Still others will enthusiastically embrace it.

What exactly are all these “rude” people doing on their smartphones and tablets? Some are taking notes. In fact, it’s far more efficient to take notes digitally, since they can be tagged, stored, copy, pasted, and quickly searched and found later. Others might be fact-checking, looking for resources to help them contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.

Still others could be using the devices to deal with their own daily workload, which enables them to attend the meeting without a gap in their personal productivity.

People who consider this kind of behavior to be rude tend to frame their experience around more traditional approaches to meetings and even classrooms, where everyone faces forward and focuses for the duration. There is a strong conviction that people cannot learn if they do not dedicate their entire self to one resource at a time. This is a somewhat dated approach with less relevance in our mobile world. The reason for this is a change in the definition of the term “literacy.”

Literacy has traditionally been referred to as the capacity to read, write and work with numbers. In the 21st-century, however, literacy means more. It applies instead to an individual’s ability to parse information from numerous sources simultaneously. Being able to listen to an instructor or meeting chair while simultaneously taking notes or checking other things online is now an essential skill.

Using devices while attending a meeting represents a personalization of the learning opportunity, and, therefore, runs in direct parallel to the personalization of the consumers’ experiences in the B2C and B2B environments. The mobile world is one of extreme individualization. How you shop, how you pay, how you relate to others in the store, office, or classroom, how you learn and develop, and how you process information – these can be tailored to each person’s attention span and capacity for processing. The mobile device is the catalyst.

Not only are we demanding more personalized experiences, we’re also demanding a faster, better model in which we get what we want, when we want it.

Where once we waited patiently for six to eight weeks for a mail-order delivery, now the standard wait-time is two day or less, thanks to the power of Amazon. And it is continuing to shrink to a matter of minutes via crowdsourced delivery services.

Think about when there is a customer-service issue. Not too long ago, we were willing to wait online for customer service. Now, we expect that a concierge is available to deliver a seamless resolution to our challenges without delay. When ATMs became widely used in the 1980s, we no longer had to wait for the bank to open to deposit or withdraw cash. Today, customers can email photographs of checks, and even have mortgage agents visit them at their homes – in other words, we can get service at our individual convenience.

While the media may focus on the nuts and bolts of technology, the machines and processes that are enabling this daily revolution, there is a factor of personal change and acceptance.

  1. When retail stores forbid sales associates to use mobile devices to serve the customer better, the retailer loses.
  2. When a manufacturer neglects to allow field service reps to offer on-screen sales agreements to the client, opting instead to have back-office send one at a later date, the manufacturer loses.
  3. When an organization rejects the Internet of Things out of hand as a comic world of talking refrigerators and pricey thermostats, they lose their grip on the future.
  4. When employers forbid employees to access social media on company time, they cut themselves off from the lifeblood of progress.

All technology represents change, and with change comes fear. However, that fear can be neutralized by facts and knowledge. Is your organization ready to take a deep breath and meet this challenge head on?

Every part of modern life is touched by technology. Our very human willingness (or unwillingness) to embrace its vast potential however, represents the pivotal axis upon which everything balances.

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