Keep taking the tablets: mobile dumbness isn't terminal

Opinion

Keep taking the tablets: mobile dumbness isn't terminal

New research suggests that gadgets lower our IQ. That's a trend that many an author of a big corporation's BYOD strategy will know already. Or at least they should – if only they could tear their eyes of that tiny glowing screen and think about things for a second.

According to the researchers from the University of Utah, people who leave the electronic world behind and get out into the wilderness become much better at taking in information and completing tasks. The underlying reason why nature nurtures our problem solving skills is that it helps to rekindle our...er... oh yes, attention spans, say the boffins.

Modern corporate life is plagued by attention hijackers. We are constantly jumping at the sound of sirens and sudden events. The cumulative effect of all those ring tones, public address announcements, alarms, fridge beeps, flashing lights, ringing phones, vibrating Nokias and winking handsets (“you have mail!” “missed call”) is that we have no ability to concentrate (actually, I'm not sure this is true, because some offices are like libraries).

The beauty of being out the office is that your consciousness is allowed time to replenish its attention span. Catching a train to your appointment would work, if it were not for the constant tannoy announcements about how sorry they are that the trains are running late and the reminders to take your bags with you when you get off the train. Only when we are in the bosom of mother nature, it seems, do our ganglions stop trembling. As we unravel the complicated knots of our competing emotions, our intellect begins to flourish.

Once we are in the open air away from the oppressive sensory pollution of the city, our IQs will raise several points, says the research quoted in the Public Library of Science. Fifty six backpackers who spent four days on an outward bound trek in the wilderness (minus all electronic devices) subsequently scored 50% better on their creativity tests when they returned to camp.

Hang on a second. I've been 'outward bound' with some management types on a Leadership Course. You'll never see a more depressing bunch of people. I'd hate to see what they're like when they're IQ has been lowered by gadgets.

Perhaps this survey is missing a trick. Electronic devices, it seems, are the great pacifiers. If there's too much intelligence in a company, people begin to clash. What better way to keep the natives down than to give them all an electronic cosh? Most people, when working for a big corporation, only run at a tiny percentage of their capacity anyway. We're like walking datacentres.

If you don't dumb the creatives and the executives down, they'll get ideas. They might leave and start their own business or join a rival, taking your customers with them, on a BYOC basis (bring your own customers – from your last employer).

Not only will glowing gadgets mesmerise your creatives, so they're just good enough to work for you but too dumb to leave, they will improve the users in the way you want them to. Remember, a gadget can educate users, make IT and security policies more workable and constantly keep tabs on the end users.

Now that seems like a plan.


Image credit: Thinkstock

This was first published in December 2012

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