These days we spend more time looking at screens almost anything else. About the only time I look at printed material is when I’m on a plane and all the devices have to be turned off. What is worth pondering is whether these connected to the Internet devices with their large amount of storage is changing the way we think.
I pick up my Kindle. It has the capacity to hold the contents of a complete library. Now I don’t really want to wander around with 3,000 books but I am finding that I often have 4 or 5 books on the go. Usually some fiction, some business management book, some technology book and some science fiction. I find that I jump from one to the other. My reading habits have completely changed. Of course I could have done this in the past but who wants to carry around 4 or 5 books?
Reading newspapers online tends to means that newspapers are no longer read sequentially. There is a tendency to jump from one article to the next which in the paper version may be many pages apart. It may be that this is resulting in a narrowing of focus as I only read the articles that grab my attention and are interesting to me.
I jump online and start researching a topic. As we follow search engine links we jump from place to place and can become distracted as other links and articles grab our attention.
Some educators are worried about this. Some feel that kids are losing the ability to think through an issue. They are losing the art of defining a problem, gathering data then analysing the data and finally forming a conclusion. That is to think sequentially. Some believe there is a tendency to jump to conclusions based on somewhat dubious Internet based information.
Others argue differently. Some feel that Internet data grazing is widening perspective. That is as people jump from link to link they are gathering information that they otherwise wouldn’t have found from the sequential reading of a book so that when they are pondering the problem they are benefiting from this wider perspective. Time will tell.
One thing is surely true. The next generation of business leaders who have always had the Internet in their lives will think differently. There has been much research to show that these young adults have a much greater capacity to multi task. I’ve seen my daughter listen to a uni lecture online, sms her friends, update her Facebook Page, listen to music and watch TV simultaneously! The uni results are good so one can’t complain but I’m amazed how she can do these things. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a bloke!
So the question is. What are we going to do about it? Do we need to rethink how work is organised, how problems are solved? Do we need to run some pilot programs to see how we can the best out of our people. I invite your thoughts.