Mind Map of the Digital Age

A new map showing how the digital era is changing our minds and in particular about how new digital objects and environments are re-wiring our brains. Best viewed by people aged 35+ with full-time jobs and teenage kids.

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Here's another map meant to provoke debate. It's not serious although a few of the issues it raises are. Interestingly, there appears to be an unease building up around everything from the Internet in general to Apple (no longer David but now a Goliath) and Google (when can we expect the next anti-trust case?) so perhaps this is quite timely.

Specific things the map seeks to explore include:

Constant connectivity means we are constantly distracted. It's now difficult to be truly alone. As a result we never get a chance to think deeply about who we are and where we are going. This links to Nicholas Carr's point in The Shallows that our thinking is becoming hurried, cursory and superficial. Interesting counter-point here. We have never been so connected and yet U.S. research is showing that we have never felt so alone.

24/7 access to everything is creating a culture that values immediacy over and above almost everything else. We can no longer wait for things to happen. Again, this can give rise to a lack of rigour and reflection but it can also cause serious mistakes. I'd predict a single-tasking movement as a reaction against multi-tasking.

Digitalisation is creating too much information and choice. There is now so much to consider that we take shortcuts to knowledge. The result is a convergence of sources, which may reduce creativity and originality. For example, only 1% of Google searches now proceed past the first page of results and academic papers are now referencing fewer citations—not more as you might expect.

Generational shifts. Teens figure there's no point in learning anything if you can just Google it. Moreover, trends like digital instant gratification and the shift towards interactive media mean that teens no longer have the patience to sit quietly and read. Does this mean that we are breeding a new generation with plenty of quick answers but very few deep questions? What will this mean for innovation?

Virtualisation means that we are removing the physical interactions that both people and ideas require. (i.e. both people and ideas are inherently social). Companies think that they can scatter people all over the world, give them access to a computer and expect something of great value to happen almost instantly but it rarely does. Will we perhaps see a back-sourcing counter-trend within the world of innovation, especially where R&D becomes concentrated in a single physical location rather then being distributed geographically?

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  • Steve Gorton

    Well I disagree with some of Dan's thoughts.... at least on the surface when I first scanned it! When I reread and noticed his point about teaching people to think about how to use the internet then totally agree.

    I think it is also much wider in that people in business (and probably life) are to busy on the dance floor rather than getting up onto the balcony to think about what they are doing. (See HBR June 2002 Heifetz and Linsky - A survival guide for leaders) Certainly this plays out in my clients who, once they have this reflective time to consider, find they make big positive diffrences for their business (new ways of working, money saved), promotions faster than expected etc

    Here we are talking about 30-50 year olds so it could be more widespread - at least in the UK and Ireland. I suspect in the US there is more of a cultural link to the quarterly stock reports to drive the instant response. (that before we go into Enron, home loans, bonuses for bankers etc which have put us in teh current economic situation)

    My own experience suggests that the instant gratification does lead to more shallow approaches - and certainly an absence of systems thinking.

    In the UK we have just had our political party conferences which offer plenty of examples. Our current coalition government has introduced a number of doctrinal ideas which suggest top line soundbites and policy without the underpinning thinking to offer guides to implmentation. They get round this by suggesting less "big central government" and more "big society localisation". In other words sort it out yourselves - we just give you the ideas..... This may well be rooted in that the majority of UK politicians have never had a proper job - university, political party intern and then safe constituency.

    Key thing in my opinion is to help people become more aware int he first instance and then move towards the deeper and connected thought.


  • Richard Watson

    I LOVE IT that people disagree with this. That's the whole point of it indeed.

  • Dan Fonseca


    I absolutely LOVED this post. I LOVE it because I TOTALLY disagree with you! Isn't that the beauty in a blog and today's digital age? Social media? I think so.

    As a member of this younger generation, I too have thought of the implications of the "instant gratification age." Will we crush innovation? Will we look for simple answers rather than deep, self-actualizing ones?

    I personally believe the internet opens itself up to MORE of these deeper questions. We simply have to orient ourselves to use the tool that way. Does this mean we have to teach the generation how to? I think so. Let me say that this is why I love blogs. I love them so much that I decided to start my own asking those "deeper" questions.

    I know I am not the only one in my generation to feel the same. Regardless, LOVED the post :)

    One of many,

    -Dan Fonseca

    www.danfonseca.wordpress.com <-- the blog I spoke about

  • Terese COrey Blanck

    Insightful to say the least. Many organizations are seeing a lack in creativity and critical thinking skills of the newest generation in the workplace. You've just described many of the complaints organizations have of their youngest recruits. A lack of deeper comtemplation, of creativity or patience etc. Part of this seems to be tied to the inability to have the patience to dig deeper to contemplate longer and to roll around the possibilites for just a few more mintues before moving onto somthing else that takes our attention. Maybe this constant deluge of information means we need to have better sorting abilities. We may have just found out that a new competency is required of all workers....the competency of filtering all the noise that is truly a valueless distraction.

    Terese Corey Blanck
    Twitter: GotShift