Does living in a hyper-stimulated world kill our ability to innovate?

A Thought Processor responds rapidly to a series of input, using minimal information that is often contained within the input stream, to churn out reactive output. This is like the combination of sensors and logic in a microwave oven that constantly monitors the cooking conditions and makes changes to the energy output from the magnetron.

An Idea Generator takes time to create new stuff, often drawing on and mulling over input collected over time. This would be the person cooking the meal – planning the meal, considering a large number of factors both factual and “feelings”-wise, and making decisions that result in more complex outcomes (the design of a complete meal).

At a glance, these two processes may be broadly similar. They both do something with input to create some output.

The key differences are: timescale and the diversity and richness of the input and output.

There is discussion pointing to the possibility that our hyper-stimulated world of instant messaging (IM) and twittering could create a generation of humans who are less able to generate new ideas because they are too busy simply reacting.

The more we are plugged in and connected to streaming data feeds, the more we get caught up in responding to each piece of information as it rolls in. For those who don’t partake of IM or twits, take email for instance. How many of us respond to each and every email as soon as it comes in? What is the impact of that on our ability to set aside chunks of quiet time to think and make decisons?

Read the full article on the Psychology Today blogs. (Thanks to Sandra D Bartolomeo for this link; originally from Mary Tannock.)

Here are more analogies to illustrate the differences between Thought Processing and Ideation:

I have previously written about business innovation as an interrupt; where it is essential that we take time out to refresh our perspectives and formulate new thoughts.

If we are caught up merely responding to input as Thought Processors, how will we find the time to reflect and generate new ideas? How often in your average work day do you have the luxury to stop and ponder?

And what happens to discourse? Can we really have a meaningful discussion and in-depth debate via 160-chatracter text streams? I think not. The fractured multithreaded attention that requires will simply be too hard for many to be bothered with.

We are already seeing signs of this reactive Thought Processing every day – more children appear to prefer the rapid stimulation of video games and movies to reading, or playing from their imagination, or simply sitting through the quiet moments in a film (yes, Singaporeans appear to actually text during movies and plays). Note also the vast market for prescriptive toys – toys that comes with instructions and specified methods of engagement…

Can businesses survive on instant pot noodles?