Recently the Sonian management team held a one day offsite meeting to consider “strategic direction.” We self-imposed limited outside distractions (email, phone, web) and at the end of 8 hours felt good about our progress and next steps.
After the meeting we enjoyed each others company over a meal at the local steakhouse. All five of us commented how the day “flew by” and attributed some of that feeling to the fact we had a chance to put our thinking caps on and step out of the constant inbound barrage of email, phone, tweets and other stimuli. Think back on any recent gathering of high tech executives and a consistent conversation theme you probably heard was “lack of quality time for deep thinking.” For me, an airplane trip without WiFi is an example of the last time I disconnected from the technology, cleared my head, and tuned my inner signal to noise ratio filter to allow the big ideas to come forth through the chatter.
As an industry we are our own worst enemy. There is a stigma associated with “disconnecting.” Colleagues expect an instant reply because our technology is fast and reliable. Real-time instant communication has us all camping out in our various inboxes (we have many: email, IM, SMS, voicemail, feeds) with trigger fingers on the reply button. We’re fearful of being the one cog gear in the “works” that slows progress.
So what to do? We each need to realize the value of “deep thinking.” We need a physical and mental space to step into for valuable focus time. I vision a virtual thinking cap. Place the cap on your head and the noise, distractions, and stimuli fade to the background. Each of us will have a different type of virtual thinking cap, based on how our brain’s are wired. And when we are successful, something wonderful happens: a light bulb moment occurs when a great thought comes forward. That’s a sweet reward for donning your thinking cap.
Update: 5/30/12 – I stumbled upon this dialog between Matt Mullenweg and PandoDaily discussing the increasing “distraction problem” and how the great technology we’re creating might eventually stifle our collective creativity. We need to support each other to find more eureka! moments.
A comment to the PandoDaily article reminds us how Marc Benioff got the epiphany to start Salesforce.com; while swimming with dolphins. That’s an awesome thinking cap activity.