Too Much Info Stifles Original Thought
Since starting my blog in March, the amount of time I have spent online has exploded. I’ve become addicted to news and am a fully signed up member of the blogosphere. I twitter, I blog, I comment, I am LinkedIn to business colleagues and I Facebook my friends. I’m constantly reading new sources of information relating to all aspects of the web game. To put it mildly, I’m hooked.
If you’re nodding your head, I know how you feel.
Taking an active role in the online community is now an absolute necessity for anyone involved in any kind of web based business. It’s also very enjoyable.
Despite it’s importance however, it’s not without its draw backs:
- It is very time consuming
- It influences my judgement and opinion
- It does not help me reach my goals
- I use it as an excuse to postpone the really important things (I’ll just read one more blog post)
To be honest though, these are only mildly frustrating issues and nothing that some self discipline and a good dollop of time management couldn’t handle. However, there’s one more problem that all this information consumption causes and I believe that for entrepreneurs it’s the most serious. It stifles original thought.
True Innovation is Revolutionary
It took me a couple of months to confirm my suspicions but after reading the 4 Hour Work Week (kindly sent to me by Gordon Murray) I firmly believe that knowing too much information in your area of business will have a fiercely negative affect on your ability to think outside the box whilst trying to be innovative.
I started blogging with the belief that if I connected with the online community and engaged in interesting conversation while also keeping up to date on the latest news from the web industry that I would be perfectly positioned to invent the next best thing.
After 5 months of exactly this sort of activity I am happy to say I no longer believe this to be true.
Knowing the state of the art will not help you define it in the future.
This is not a new idea, it’s been discussed before:
“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking”
– Albert Einstein
I can’t help wonder how the great man would have fared had he been glued to his feed reader for two or three hours a night.
Thinking Outside The Box
I have come to the conclusion that the only way to think outside the box is to forget what’s inside it.
If I am constantly updating my knowledge on the state of the art then I am playing a game of perpetual catchup. One that I will never win. What I really need to do is blur the lines, think outside the box and take my own approach.
Do you think that Steve Jobs spends his morning on Twitter micro blogging to his followers? Or that Richard Branson loads up his feed reader for an hour before bed every night? I doubt it. True innovation comes from independent thought and great execution.
Question The Status Quo
I constantly read news on new web startups, social media tools, data aggregators, web services, data portability, and other similar topics, but have found despite how interesting and compelling I may find all this information, that it has a large influence on my efforts at original thought.
Does my new killer app really have to integrate with the Twitter API? Probably not. Must it use open data standards? That’s probably overkill. Do I really need to leverage it’s viral potential? If it’s a genuinely great tool it won’t need to. And does it really need to integrate with my desktop calender? Maybe in version two.
Much of the ideas that I produce during a brain storming session are evolutionary not revolutionary. They build on existing technologies and use adopted standards within the web development community. Shame on me for not being more original.
So, what am I going to do about this problem? Simple. I’m going on a low information diet. I’m going to cut out as much noise as possible to help me focus on my real goals.
The Low Information Diet
In an effort to fight this constant stream of influential news and commentary I’m going to cull large portions of my subscribed feeds. I’m going to shut out as much of it as I can and cut myself off from the constant flow of information that sways my decisions both consciously and subconsciously.
By dramatically reducing the amount of news I consume on a daily basis I hope to become more productive, more efficient, more innovative and more original. As for the news that will undoubtedly pass me by, I’ll just have to live with it.
If it’s really that important, I’m sure I’ll hear about it one way or the other.