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Really good piece in the New York Times over the weekend by 17-year-old Jonah Stillman, who recently joined the advisory board of Blackboard, an educational software company. Invited to attend his first meeting, Stillman was enthralled and engaged ... until he got an unexpected criticism from a vice president named Craig Chanoff during a break in the session. Chanoff told him that if he wanted to be successful, Stillman had to stop texting friends and checking his Twitter feed during the meeting.

Stillman writes that he felt like an idiot...

"But I was also quite angry. The thing is, I hadn’t checked my Twitter feed for over two hours. I’d been taking notes.

"I walked down the hall and began to think. I realized that my friends and I are glued to our phones all day long. That’s just the way we are. Phones are crucial to our identities and lifestyle. Telling people in my generation to put our phones away is not a solution. Just ask our teachers how that has worked for them.

"Even so, the workplace is not ready for how often we are going to pull out our phones. Rather than fight it, I think the other generations are going to have to learn to let go and adapt to us. The reality is that social media breaks take less than 15 seconds and can be re-energizing. That’s less time than the widely accepted practice of taking breaks for coffee or snacks.

"That said, there is no denying that we will need to be mentored so we know when even a 15-second break is unacceptable. The good news is that teachers have been trying to coach us about this for years. We can learn and we can adapt, if the other generations adapt, too.

"What really upset me at the meeting was the assumption that by pulling out my phone, I wasn’t paying attention. I’m a digital native. My friends and I have only known a world where phones are smart. My iPhone is a computer, and it’s natural to take notes on it.

"I thought I was being diligent, yet they thought I was being rude. I even thought I was being efficient by quickly looking up something online and not missing a beat, and they thought I was playing video games. Clearly, my generation cannot assume the older generations know how we use technology."

The good news is that when Stillman explained what he'd actually been doing, the company turned it into a positive. (He probably had the best notes on what had been discussed, and could easily email them to other attendees.)

But this is a relevant look at a generational gap that needs to be bridged, and an understanding that older folks need to have about how younger people work and engage. You can read it in its entirety here.
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