Awhile ago I was called for an interview by CKNW radio in Vancouver to talk about the growing Blackberry problem. The BC Legislature has just banned politicians from bringing their Blackberrys into sessions. The timing was perfect. As a seminar leader and facilitator, this is becoming a pet peeve of mine. We have been conducting workshops and retreats where participants were paying more attention to their little screens than to each other. We had to make some very tight rules about turning them off. One company is finding this to be such a problem that meeting participants must check their Blackberry at the door in sealed envelopes to be picked up when they leave!

This is part of a much larger and very unhealthy trend to multi-tasking that is leading to what psychiatrist Ned Hallawell calls attention deficit trait, or ADT. In a January 2005 article in Harvard Business Review entitled, “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform,” he writes that the condition is “caused by brain overload, ADT is now epidemic in organizations. The core symptoms are distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience. People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time. These symptoms can undermine the work of an otherwise gifted executive…. The number of people with ADT coming into my clinical practice has mushroomed by a factor of ten in the past decade… Facing a tidal wave of tasks, the executive becomes increasingly hurried, curt, peremptory, and unfocused, while pretending that everything is fine.”