How a PDA cost $10.0 Million

Recently I was having dinner with my wife my sister and brother in-law. It was 7:30 PM on a Friday night in a very swank restaurant in the Twin Cities. You know white tablecloths, low light, and dark wood. The kind of place you take an important client or celebrate an anniversary. As I looked around the room I was struck by the twinkling blue lights of cell phones and PDA’s as people (couples and parties) sat across from one another and either read or texted someone else.  


I read a line recently that struck a chord with me. Robert Holden Coach and Author in his book, Success Intelligence spoke of Thin Conversations.  A question struck me; how many of us have settled for thin conversations?


So, what is a thin conversation? Thin conversations occur when we are multi tasking. Think about the passing of a colleague in the hall with a “How are you?” God forbid he or she actually answers you!   Or, maybe it was the conversation those diners were having at Innoni’s. Or perhaps it’s the dialog that occurs as you and your business partner are talking and you are both scrolling through your email message. Would you call any of those conversations deep and meaningful? Were they really even productive?


Is there a case for these thin conversations? They are meant to:

–          Be polite

–          To show interest

–          To keep lubricating relationship


How many of you had a conversation or meeting where you were also:

–          Reading an email

–          Sorting the mail on your desk

–          Surfing the web

–          Driving


How satisfying was that conversation?


In contrast, now I want you to think back to your second or third date with the person you fell in love with. Remember, how engrossed in that conversation, you were? How you were deeply interested in what they had to say, and they hung on your every word. …How did that feel?


Or maybe we have a colleague with whom we have synergy. When we work together, we are on the same page, we listen, we pursue the same outcomes.


How did those conversations make you feel?

–          Valued

–          Respected

–          Love


When we take the time to get beyond the Thin Conversations, we develop relationships personally and professionally — relationships that have trust, value, respect and commitment. Friends, those are the values and feelings that speed up our business dealings and that lubricate our lives.


So why do we not have more deep conversations? People will tell you it is a matter of time; too much to do and too little time. Let me offer a different point of view


When we take the time to develop relationships that have trust, value, respect and commitment we end up saving time and energy; we actually become more effective. When our personal relationships have this kind of footing we can say something stupid and we get a pass. We can work late for a project or forget to take out the trash and we get a pass.


In the workplace, when we share these feelings for each other, our clients trust us and will make the purchase easier and with fewer demands. Our colleagues will work extra hard to complete a project or they won’t challenge our positions because we’ve earned their trust. We are able to operate at what Stephen M.R. Covey calls “The Speed of Trust.”


What’s the cost of thin conversations?


I recently heard of a deal worth $10.0 Million over 5 years. It was down to companies. The selling company flew their team into Los Angeles, as did the Buyer. They stayed at the Hilton and had breakfast together. They spent the day touring the site. That afternoon as they were in the conference room going for the close, the President of the Seller got up and stood at the back of the room. He pulled out his PDA and started checking email.


The Seller did not get the deal. Was it because of the PDA? We’ll never know. But ask yourself how would you feel if you and your team invested the time and energy to leave your place of business to fly to an off-site meeting to learn about someone you were going to invest a considerable sum with and they did not give you their complete attention? 


  1. Great example at the end there. There’s mounting evidence that multi-tasking doesn’t even work well for multi-tasking.

    Last summer I took a ride on the Canadian Rail from Vancouver to Calgary. Some of the most scenic country you can imagine, glass roof, and the 30-something couple across from us spent 95% of their time glued to PDAs and kindles, and 3% sleeping. The remaining 2% was spent looking up for 20 seconds to grab a photo, i guess so they could say they were there. Of course they weren’t, not in any meaningful sense.

  2. I find my self often drawn to my hand held when in fact it could be more interesting to just look. Remember when people watching was a real past time? OOPs probably just dated my self

  3. What a great subject. The whole idea of being present and listening is one that fascinates me personally. So often we find conversations on the phone or in person where we KNOW that the other person is not fully engaged. We are left feeling enormously unsatisfied PLUS we know that the other thing the person was doing was also being done poorly as well.

    It is amazing how addicted we are to being connected. We get email on our laptop, which we carry with us, and also on our Blackberry which we carry with us. We have a desk phone which we forward to our cell phone when we leave our office so that we don’t miss a call there. We take phone calls and emails while driving, putting not only ourselves in danger, but also we risk the lives of all of those around us.

    I suspect that this PDA not only cost $10 million, but likely will cost this person much more in terms of their personal relationships. Sadly this person may not even realize the cost in his relationships.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

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