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Is Your Smart Phone Killing Your Creativity?

Sure, your beloved gadget allows you to work during every spare moment, but is the price of increased productivity dramatically lower creativity?
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Here's the good news: your smartphone allows you to be constantly busy with productive work (or, let's be honest, the occasional stress-busting round of Angry Birds). So what's the bad news? Your smart phone allows you to be constantly busy.

Huh?

If you're an over-scheduled business owner this scene probably sounds familiar: You're standing in line at the grocery store but while you wait to pay for your milk, you're tapping away at your phone sending just one more quick email. For the productivity conscious these snatched moments are, of course, a win, but according to a long post on ReadWrite Mobile recently, if you're in the market for fresh ideas, killing off every last moment of absent minded musing (otherwise known as boredom) in this way is probably counter productive.

In the post, Brian S. Hall confesses the intimate details of his own relationship with his iPhone and bravely faces up to the fact that while he loves his device, it's probably killing his creativity:

Numerous studies and much accepted wisdom suggest that time spent doing nothing, being bored, is beneficial for sparking and sustaining creativity. With our iPhone in hand - or any smartphone, really - our minds, always engaged, always fixed on that tiny screen, may simply never get bored. And our creativity suffers….

Spending so much time texting and updating, tweeting and watching, calling and playing at every free moment, from every location, never alone with our thoughts, never allowing our thoughts to drift, impacts our creativity, which in turn can limit our full potential.

Edward de Bono, business consultant and self-described "father of lateral thinking" has authored numerous works on creative thinking. de Bono calls moments of boredom "creative pauses," which allows the mind to drift, and avails the person to new forms of input and understanding. 

Is Hall right? He's certainly not alone in worrying. He rounds up expert thinking on the issue and also delves into the particular effects of smart phone use on young brains. And elsewhere on the Web, plenty of other voices are seconding his concerns about the unintended effects of our intense attachment to our smartphones.

Recent research has indicated that smartphone use actually teaches our brains to become bored more easily by eroding our ability to focus, driving a vicious circle in which constant stimulation reduces our ability to entertain ourselves which in turn pushes us to seek out yet more intense stimulation and so on. Or, if you have more of an artistic than scientific bent, then you can turn to Monty Python comic John Cleese for confirmation of Hall's concerns. In this talk, Cleese warns that constant busyness is a surfire way to muffle your natural creativity.  

So what can you do to balance your need for smartphone-enabled productivity with your desire to keep your creative impulses alive? There is expert advice out there to help you make better and more conscious choices about how you use your gadgets.

Be honest, do you sometimes worry about how your smartphone use is affecting your brain?

 

Last updated: Apr 3, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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