The Dangers of Mobile Multitasking

 When it comes to tech decisions, don’t always default to the least expensive option.

November 27, 2012
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As I was enjoying a late spring fly-fishing trip on the Yakima River, I carried with me the latest smartphone. A sleek piece of layered plastic and silicon with more brainpower than Congress…even when it’s turned off.

So it was no surprise that the familiar ring tone blasted just as I hooked a monster rainbow trout. Then another…and another (message, that is, not trout).

Fighting a once-in-a-lifetime fish, my mind wandered. Who could it be? What do they want? Was it an emergency? If it wasn’t, could I fire them for interrupting me?

I figured it must be important—but I had a dilemma. My choices:

  • Ignore the call. It probably was a wrong number. And it couldn’t possibly be the chairman of the board, whom I had somehow neglected to inform of my impromptu vacation.
  • Drop what was probably the largest fish I had ever caught, and answer the gosh-darn thing.

In hindsight, choosing either option probably would have been better than what I did. You see, being a modern mana­ger in a techno­logically advanced industry, I decided to multitask.

(Note to Verizon: I don’t know why your technician blamed misuse for why my phone quit working. I admit, it might have gotten a little wet after falling into the river. But I quickly kicked it several times across the rocks toward the shore so it wasn’t in the river for long. As for the melted plastic casing, I can’t understand how putting it near a small campfire could have caused that much damage. After all, we taped it to a stick that was a few feet away from the flames. In any event, I ask that you reconsider my claim.)

Smartphones (like the one I had before my multitasking adventure) are popular. Half of U.S. consumers carry them, according to a report by Chetan Sharma Consulting.

For younger adults, it’s even higher: Smartphone ownership among 25- to 34-year-olds is an amazing 71%, according to a Pew Research Center study.

But smartphone ownership among people age 65 or older, according to Pew, is at 13% (only slightly higher than the percentage of voters who believe politicians can’t be eaten by sharks out of “professional courtesy”).

So when we look at our membership, it breaks cleanly into two groups: those who will use mobile technology and those who believe “rotary phones” were the last great telecom advancement.

Unfortunately, while we all recognize the need to offer mobile to the younger crowd, most CEOs and boards fit into the “rotary” group. So, like parents trying to buy a new game console for their 12-year-old at Christmas, we go out to buy what we think they want.

CU Manager: Can I get mobile banking?

Vendor: Yes. Do you want the XR/43 version running over TCP/IP or the SNA/SQL version running
on OS/X?

CU Manager: The cheapest one.

Obviously, being both clueless and in a position of power isn’t an exclusive situation. To make your mobile platform decision, you must analyze highly complex and technical options.

Unfortunately, when we’re faced with a difficult technical analysis, all too often it comes down to “do whatever is cheapest”—so we have more time to do really important work, like attempting to outsmart a fish…which is where I am going now.

But don’t call me; I can’t answer my new rotary phone.





JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash., and Credit Union Magazine's humor columnist. Contact him at 360-943-0740.

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