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Pet Peeve II - No attention span

I wrote an earlier post about my number 1 pet peeve, being late without calling ahead.  Here's my number 2 pet peeve -- lack of attention span.

Fred and others have written about whether or not VCs and entrepreneurs have some form of ADD that is beneficial.  I think that the ability to deal with a constant stream of interruptions can be very helpful.  The world is a very noisy and distracting place.  And, there is nothing wrong with being curious and going where your curiousity leads you.  But, that's not the same as having no attention span.

What really bugs me are people who can't pay attention to the task at hand because they are compelled to pull out their Blackberry and check their email.  Now, maybe the meeting or presentation is boring.  And, I am not talking about a large meeting room or lecture setting where any one person can not pay attention without sending a disturbing message to the speaker or other participants.  But, here are some situations where I thought people were downright rude:

  • In a meeting where a company was pitching to me for potential funding, the CEO pulled out his Blackberry and checked his email when the VP of Engineering began doing his part of the presentation.
  • At a networking dinner, someone pulls out their Blackberry whenever they are not talking in the conversation and then puts it down when they want to speak.
  • When an entrepreneur is presenting to a venture firm over a video conference, the VCs at the other end are checking their Blackberry, reading their email, or coming in and going out of the room frequently.
  • On a Board conference call, someone has their phone on mute and is asked a question.  It takes them way too long to realize that the question is aimed at them and, when they come off mute, it's clear that they never heard the question in the first place.

In each of these situations, why not just wear a big sign that says "I DON'T CARE"?  We don't wear those signs because it would be rude, and not paying attention more subtly is just as rude.

I worry a little bit about the short attention span that many kids seem to have.  Will they really be able to focus and concentrate when they need to?  But, I get real mad when the person I am with not fully present.  If you need to deal with an interruption or need to monitor your email, excuse yourself briefly and take care of it.  But, don't make it so clear that you just aren't interested in the subject at hand.  If you really feel that way, just don't show up.


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