Is Social Media Blitzkrieg Hindering Innovation?

The Three B’s

Bubble BathThere is a common consensus among scientists that the world’s greatest discoveries occur in the Three B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. Why? Because it’s not when you’re running actual experiments, performing mathematical calculations, or analyzing data  that the mind makes its quantum leaps. It’s during the downtime between those activities, when your mind is at rest, that it intuits the pattern or the breakthrough discovery spawned by those hours of work, study, and experimentation.

 The Social Media Blitzkrieg

 What happens when there is no downtime? How many bus and train riders today spend their entire commute texting, tweeting, or surfing the web on palm-size electronics? How many people sleep with their cell phones next to their beds or even nestled beside them in bed?  You don’t have to be Theodore Twombly to fall in love with your Personal Device.  And Personal Devices can be among the most jealous and possessive of lovers.  When surveyed half of workers age twenty-one to thirty-one, say they would circumvent any company policy banning the use of personal devices at work or for work purposes

Even those employees who don’t live on their Personal Devices find themselves buried under avalanche after avalanche of plain old-fashioned e-mail.  We are in a state of constant sensory overload.  How can we have an inventive, work-  or life-changing thought when we can’t even hear ourselves think?

Playrooms

Ping Pong at Google It’s ironic that the very industry that landed us in this midst of this constant e-noise is the one that has recognized it must carve out a time and a place for its employees to play or to chill or to simply be. High Tech companies are creating spaces which encourage employees to rest their overworked brains, so that they can logoff, shutdown, and reboot.

Most Silicon Valley companies feature ping pong and foosball tables in their offices. The most popular way to get around Google’s block-size New York office is by scooter. And see those bookcases along the wall? They’re secret passages:  doorways which open onto reflection rooms.

This trend of creative spaces has already made its way across the pond. Mind Candy in London has a Wooden Tree House Room and a Gingerbread House for holding meetings.  Its offices also include a “coloring wall and quiet areas that look like Hobbit holes.” Ticketmaster’s London office sports “ a metal slide that staff can take to reach the bar area, where table football, a jukebox and pinball machines await.

Touchdown!

 The nights Germany carpet bombed London, the city’s citizens  shut off every last light. Maybe what we need to do is forge a daily social media blackout of, say, thirty minutes in our workplaces. During those thirty minutes all employees will take a furlough from all forms of social media. They can get up and walk around, talk to each other face to face, get a cup of coffee, or even work (imagine how much work you could get done in thirty uninterrupted minutes!). And imagine, just imagine, if  some employees took  a few deep breaths and stared  into space, or opened their blinds and looked out the window, or constructed a goal post out of pencils and rubber bands and thumb-kicked a triangular folded-paper football over it, what creative breakthroughs they might have?  Fresh products. Cutting edge services. New and improved ways to reach their customers.

Me? I’d kill for an office with bath. One of those deep Victorian tubs with bear claw feet and a bar of French milled soap and some bubbles.  Logoff. Shutdown. Reboot.

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