Is the internet hurting your innovation?

Is the internet hurting new product development processesIn his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr, outlines several ways that the always on, 24/7 nature of the internet is a double-edged sword – providing us with unprecedented access to information while at the same time slashing our attention span, re-wiring our brains, and slowing intellectual development.

A diet of social media isn’t exactly conducive to the contemplative life lived by the great thinkers of previous ages. In fact, it’s closer to that of cavemen hunting for their next meal while trying to avoid being eaten by another predator.

On balance, I don’t actually believe that the internet hurts innovation, but there are downsides. Carr alludes to one that I wrote about in Simplifying Innovation– something I call Device Attention Deficit Syndrome (DADS). We use the phone, email, texting, and even Facebook and Twitter as substitutes for real interpersonal communication and we allow the devices that deliver them to become a constant distraction when we are actually communicating with each other.

How many of you have had someone check their crack-berry messages or take a cell phone call during a conversation? How about typing away, doing email during a meeting. And how many of you may have even done so yourself? I know I have. What kind of message did that send the people I was meeting with? Not exactly the way to build bridges is it?

From an innovation perspective, these constant interruptions have an insidious effect of productivity. They prevent our brains from getting to that productive alpha state, where the creative juices are flowing, where problems are more-easily solved, and where we are at our intellectual peak. And when we do get the 10 – 20 minute of focus necessary to reach that state, the next interruption sends us right back to beta again.

Several solutions for avoiding DADS:

  • When you need to concentrate, turn off your cellphone and send your office phone to voicemail.
  • Limit checking voice-mail and email to 2 or 3 scheduled times per day.
  • Ban laptops, cellphones, smartphones, iPads, and any other electronic communications devices from meetings.
  • Forget the open door policy unless it’s an emergency. For those of you that don’t have doors buy a few traffic cones or get some of that yellow emergency scene tape to let folks know you’re trying to concentrate.

What do you think? Share your strategies for overcoming electronic distraction.

This article appears by permission of the author and was originally published on his Simplifying Innovation blog.

Dalton on Innovation

Mike Dalton is the author of Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market and new product profits – with your existing resources


Author: Michael Dalton

Mike Dalton's Guided Innovation Group, works with companies that want more impact form new product innovation in less time. Clients credit Mike with helping them double new product profits and cut time to market by more than half. He's also the author of the book Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market and new product profits - with your existing resources. You can download free sample chapters at Simplifying Innovation. Prior to starting the Guided Innovation Group, he had 24 years of experience growing new and existing businesses as a general management and business development executive for the industrial polymer division of the multi-billion dollar S.C. Johnson & Son family of companies. He holds an MBA in marketing & finance from the University of Chicago and a chemical engineering, gas, and energy technology degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology. You can learn more about getting more impact from your innovation by visiting Guided Innovation where they offer an array of reports and other free innovation resources.

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