One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity. -Edward De Bono

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The Internet, Learning, and Creativity

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The Age of Information

As a result of the internet and Google’s fancy page rank algorithms, almost anything we want to know is a query away. This places us at an incredible advantage when it comes to problem solving and learning. However, in this post I want to address the side effects. How does this surplus of information affect fun and creativity? How does it change the learning experience?

Sometimes we forget to put down the book, put down the laptop, and start doing.

Information Overload

Reading in-depth tutorials and guides are wonderful ways to learn a basic skill. However, I’ve noticed they can have a negative impact on the creative and enjoyable aspects of learning. Why? Here are the main reasons:

Everything you are going to do is laid out in front of you. If followed step by step without deviation, creativity is stripped out of the process.
Not only is it predictable, but its daunting! It can make simple things appear very complex (often through immense detail), resulting in less motivation. 
Many of these guides will get you to a goal, but often times their algorithmic nature will result in a shallow understanding. This makes it harder to re-apply the knowledge in different contexts and situations, further hampering creativity.  
 People will fall back to information in order to avoid failure. And when stakes are high, that makes sense. However, trying with risk of failure is often a better way to learn and allows for creative discovery. Sometimes too much information creates unnecessary failure conditions that discourage originality.

Example: Eating Healthy

For the longest time, I never went through the effort to learn how to cook and eat healthy. Why? Well, it was just too much to do: Look up healthy recipes, make a grocery list with the needed items, find things at the store item by item,  learn the cooking methods. I didn’t have time or motivation.

Get a Base Knowledge. Get Comfortable.

First, make sure you have an understanding of the fundamental components and vocabulary of what you are trying to learn. Decide upon what foods are healthy for you. Look up some cooking methods. Do just enough to make you comfortable; you’ll learn more as you go.

Do Something, and Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself!

Make your first move. Go wander through the grocery store and grab all the veggies and meat that look good to you. Who cares if you don’t know exactly how to cook it yet. We have the internet remember? Right now we are focusing on buying healthy groceries.

Learn as you Go

Learning while you go is more effective as more about the process is discovered during execution. It  helps keep you engaged throughout the experience, and ultimately, you’ll acquire a deeper understanding of each component in the process. Look up a recipe here in there, or research methods to cook a specific ingredient.

Ultimately, the key is to keep doing. The internet is a wonderful companion for learning, but its only secondary to actually going out and executing. Often times, the more you fill up on information and guidelines before acting, the more fun, discovery, and creativity you rip out from the learning process.



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1 Comment.

  1. Max Smith

    “Sometimes we forget to put down the book, put down the laptop, and start doing.”
    Yes. People need to get off Twitter and Facebook and Pornhub and start paying attention to their crying babies and sick dogs. Ha ha.

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