The idea for this column began yesterday. On a flight back from Orange County, Calif., I sat next to a guy who couldn't keep his hands off his BlackBerry device.
He was checking his e-mail every minute while we were on the ground and then typing long messages (with his thumbs! Ouch!) on the thing in-flight, then going back online when we landed. What could be so important that the guy couldn't even get one look at the Sky Mall catalog?
On the last dozen or so flights I've been on, I seem to be the only one not glued to a BlackBerry like an old lady playing bingo and waiting for B-4. On one flight, each person next to me and across the aisle — five in all — were staring at their BlackBerrys, all apparently hoping to win the lottery.
Then, on "60 Minutes" over the weekend, they did a special report on Americans working 60 to 80 hours a week. In the report it is mentioned that even in France, workers are more productive on a per-hour basis.
One highlighted couple were ever so proud of their ridiculous schedules, and then they showed this picture of their infant on a BlackBerry. The mom claimed that the kid will choose this device over all his other toys.
So basically what we have here is that the BlackBerry is a time-wasting toy appropriate for two-year-olds to amuse themselves.
I think we need to get these things into China as fast as we can just to have a better chance of competing with the Chinese. It should bring their progress down radically.
Watching this unfold and the silly Gen-X workaholics who are so proud of their 70-hour workweeks reminded me of two anecdotes.
The first was from a guy I met at a hairstylist's. This guy, a customer of my haircutter, asked me what I did for work. I sold software at the time.
"Can't you get anyone else to do it for you cheaper?"
Whatever I told him, he'd keep asking the same question. He told me he had six profitable businesses and played tennis all day.
He discovered people could do his work for him cheaper than he could do it himself. So he played tennis all day and thought people were idiots if they worked even 40 hours a week.
After a long enough chat, he figured I was a chump and that was the end of it. He had to go play tennis. I thought this was a bit of an extreme lifestyle, but smart.
The idea of "smart" came up with my second anecdote too. I was in Asia when I ran into this high-level sales guy who worked all the Asian markets. He had very interesting and valuable opinions about doing business in the various cultures and countries.
One thing that came up in the conversation was the work ethic of the various groups. In particular, there was a comparison between the working habits of the Japanese versus the Americans. The Japanese were notorious for working long hours and coming home late.
Or so I thought. He said that they work fewer hours than Americans and hang out in bars with their friends all night, then come home late. The myth is BS.
Then he delivered the operative and thematic statement: "The Japanese do not work harder — they work smarter."
That's what I'm seeing: people working dumb.
Just racking up hours as if you were paid by the hour is not something to be proud of. We should be finding ways to be working smarter and more efficiently.
And in the overall mix of timewasting activities I include incessant staring at the BlackBerry and then actually typing long messages with your thumbs! How inefficient is that?
It's like playing the piano with your nose. It's a carnival act at best. And hardly something to be proud of unless you are a clown putting on a show.
In fact that's what I'm seeing with the workaholics proud of their 70-hour workweeks and the guy constantly staring at his BlackBerry. Clowns.
More John C. Dvorak:
See John get cranky about technology in his new Cranky Geeks IPTV Show.
Go off-topic with John C. Dvorak.
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