It is simply amazing to me how connected we have become. Cell phones, I believe, started the sea change in terms of connectivity and access, then came blackberries (anywhere/anytime email) and IM. Now we have Facebook and Twitter which lets us know what hundreds (thousands?) of people are doing every minute of their lives.
Here’s the question I’ve got: is all of this connectivity actually making us more productive, more innovatiove, or even making our lives that much better? Or is Facebook just the “CB Radio” of the decade (the under 40 set might even have to look that one up, or shall I say, “Google it”?). There is no doubt that staying connected with friends is fun and staying connected with work has become almost required in most organizations, but the question remains, are we any more innovative or productive?
It is really hard to chastise your kids for playing too many video games while we’re sitting on a social networking site. I guess it is at least interacting with others but it is far from being productive or adding any value to society.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of having more fun! What I wonder, however, is how much our “always on” connectivity is hurting how we get our most thoughtful work done. I find that I am most productive and/or come up with the best ideas when I am on an airplane or in the shower. The common thread is that those are the only two places where I am awake and not connected to the almost constant stream of interruptions from my blackberry. You can see how we have all become slaves to it. When I give speeches and look out at the audience, there will always be a significant number of folks staring at a glowing screen on their lap.
Now, I will admit that I am the last person who that would give up my blackberry. There is incredible freedom and productivity in not having to be in the office and still remain connected. I believe however, that it is important for many to have some time “off the grid.” I was even going to praise the Governor of South Carolina for taking some time off to clear his head, but my example turned out to be a little problematic…
Innovation and well thought out ideas, I believe, come for most of us in having a chance to think through a problem, examine it from many angles, and weigh multiple options. I know that many days, the interruptions of the day drive the day itself – the problem becomes when the interruption days become the rule rather than the exception.
My simple advice: go off-grid once in a while, especially when you have some hard work or real thinking to do. I believe the only thing that will happen is your overall productivity and innovation will improve.