Microsoft is rolling out a variety of tools to support the information worker - video conferencing, improvements to Outlook, IM, new Office features, etc. As all of us can attest, a major challenge for the modern day information worker is the fact that we are always on and that our days are often interupt driven. IM's ping in, followed by email, phone calls, Blackberry messages - all conviences of connectivity and all challenges of sustained thought and focus.
The VC industry is full of crack-berry addicts, people who cannot go a meeting, seemingly a minute, without pulling out there device and reading the latest email. We are trained to be responsive to email and often a day can go by with tens if not hundreds of interuptions.
I asked Steve if MSFT is builiding a policy driven filter that will allow the knowledge worker to dial his availability up or down and filter inbound messages when he simply needs to get sh*t done. I jokingly referred to a recent study that compared IQs of frequent electronic communicators with those who smoke pot daily and found the electronic messengers lacking!
I found Steve's answer very telling. He does not carry a Blackberry, he does not carry a cell phone during the work day. He does not permit meetings where people use laptops or notepads to check and write email. His goal is focused interaction, drive to a solution, and then break up the meeting and move on. He recounted a story of where a major company CEO interupted him in mid-sentence as his Blackberry vibrated, only to tell him after checking that Scott Peterson had been convicted. The CEO then had to ask Steve where they were in the conversation.
The VC industry suffers from very short attention spans, and I pity the CEOs who need to compete with VCs checking random emails and text messages during their pitches. I, guilty as anyone at times, took a lot from Steve's views on self-discipline and respect to other meeting participants.
Rather than join the Luddite crowd rejecting the convenience of mobile email, I simply am trying to ensure that meetings are sacred (as is time with wife and kids!!!). Perhaps, I will recover some IQ points (I need them) and get more done as a result.
As an aside, Steve provided a list of things he is looking for in an M&A situation. I found the list instructive:
- technical innovation with impact
- protected IP (patent portfolio)
- market understanding
- engineering excellence
- alignment with sales capacity (can you sell it?, do you know how to sell it?)
- timing and tenaciousness
- understanding of value chain and how to partner to win