A Midwest university professor complained: "We are now focusing more on how to use the tools of communication than we are on how to effectively communicate. As a result, we are turning out computer and internet gurus who can't write and think creatively."
How frightening! If ever there was a time when creative solutions were more valuable, I can't remember it. Most companies are operating with fewer employees, less cash, more challenges and uncertain futures. Creative thinking is the difference between their next chapter and Chapter 11.
There's a certain irony in the professor's comparison too. Technology should help us use our time better. It should ease our workloads. With our records, correspondence, contracts, plans and ledgers at our fingertips with a few clicks, we should logically accomplish more in a shorter time. We actually have the means for instant, real-time, "face-to-face" communication just about anywhere on the planet.
But if that communication is meaningless and useless, the whole point of having and using great tools is lost. Mastery of texting skills often means abbreviations and "alternate" spellings. Limited space for tweets requires the writer to send the briefest of messages, eliminating details and information. Both skills are useful, even essential, but secondary to the message being sent. I appreciate brevity and succinctness, but definitely not at the mercy of effectiveness and creativity. As I like to say, knowledge does not become power until it is used.
We should have seen some of this coming. Author Marshall McLuhan stated back in 1964 that "the medium is the message," meaning that the medium used influences how the message is perceived. All media, he said, have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways. But I wonder if McLuhan could have imagined the far-reaching effects of our information age technology and the instant access available to anyone on the Internet. Is creativity lost to the medium?
Really good managers foster creativity in their employees by challenging them to use their technology to enhance their brainpower. Try some of these exercises to get the creative juices flowing in your organization. Use whatever technology works best for the situation.
I'd take Marshall McLuhan's observation in a slightly different direction in 2010: The medium enhances the message. A spectacular website with a lousy message will never supersede a creative message in simpler form. There is no substitute for great ideas.
Mackay's Moral: Technology is a result of creative thinking, not a replacement for it.