Information Explosion – the silent creativity killer

A recent article from the Economist “Too much Information”

confirmed a long time suspicion that I’ve always held. Too much information is a real creativity killer. Many of us are addicted to the dopamine like effects triggered by the blinking red light on our blackberry, the twitter chatter from our business networks, or the frequent streams of consciousness from our facebook “friends”.  While it feels empowered to be “always-on”, it is coming at a significant price to ourselves and to society. Why? Because the time, and cognitive resources we engage in PARTICIPATIVE thinking, is taking it away from CREATIVE thinking.

In the Economist, Schumpeter points to several commentators who have coined a profusion of phrases to describe the anxiety and anomie caused by too much information: “data asphyxiation” (William van Winkle), “data smog” (David Shenk), “information fatigue syndrome” (David Lewis), “cognitive overload” (Eric Schmidt) and “time famine” (Leslie Perlow). Johann Hari, a British journalist, notes that there is a good reason why “wired” means both “connected to the internet” and “high, frantic, unable to concentrate”.

Another piece of research referenced in the article cites Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School who has spent more than a decade studying the work habits of 238 people, collecting a total of 12,000 diary entries between them. She finds that focus and creativity are connected.

People are more likely to be creative if they are allowed to focus on something for some time without interruptions. If constantly interrupted or forced to attend meetings, they are less likely to be creative. Third, overload can also make workers less productive. David Meyer, of the University of Michigan, has shown that people who complete certain tasks in parallel take much longer and make many more errors than people who complete the same tasks in sequence.

Yet, all is not lost.  It takes a certain amount of personal discipline to disengage from  all the clutter.  And if you don’t have that, I’d suggest you check out freedom, a new program that costs about $10 and allows you to disconnect periodically from the internet –

I know I am.

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