Everywhere I go, people are talking about connectivity, collaboration and the power of collective intelligence and social media. Well, almost everywhere.
Transparency Towers this week conducted a forum for 200 company directors at the Met Club in NYC. The location is perfect–East 60th street and Fifth, just beside the park. The restaurant on the 6th floor boasts one of the best views on Manhattan. Ironically, the building is just yards from the Big Apple Apple store.
The Met club, a refuge for business people (well, still mostly business men) was built in 1891 at a cost of more than $1billion, and was then presumably a state-of-the-art facility for the conduct of commerce. Today, it does not allow laptop or cellular phone use in its common areas. The club also requires that guests be smartly dressed. Smart suits, smart shirts, smart ties but no smart phones. The smart people who signed up for our forum smarted.
Across the day, directors discussed tools to help global trading and global communications. They discussed the value of social media in keeping boards up to speed with what company customers really think. They worried about cybersecurity, and the risks of inadquate IT infrastructure. They tutted as they were told the inside story of failures at Blockbuster, glitches at Netflix and lapses in vision and foresight at Bank of America. Around them, the club slowly put itself out of business.
I write this from the quiet car of the Acela Express back to Washington DC. I choose the quiet car, because no phone conversations are allowed. I absolutely agree that there are times when people should use their thumbs for something other than texting or typing. But not during working hours. And not when the club offers only one small, slow elevator or several flights of stairs for members of a busy event planning team used to texting each other to say “bring the tent cards” or “have you got any aspirin?” And not when people are involved in working groups from 7am to 10pm, and have deals to discuss, children to sing to sleep, and check in to complete for flights to take them home.
The Met club needs to mend its ways or it will go the way of smokers in Central Park, strippers on Broadway or most of Coney Island. If company directors are complaining about life at the Met Club then something really does need to change…