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Live from #gc2011: Nicholas Carr on how the Internet is hurting innovation

Last year, Nicholas Carr released his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” which details his research on how technology and the Internet have affected people’s ability to process information. This week at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Carr spoke with SmartBrief editor Mary Ellen Slayter about his work and how companies can cope with an Internet-focused workforce.

Carr’s inspiration for the book came after he began losing his ability to concentrate while reading or doing other tasks offline. He began looking at the science of how the mind adapts to technology and found that the Internet discourages a undivided train of thought.

For businesses, this means an always-connected employee might be struggling to focus on work. Smartphone technology was hailed as essential to helping business leaders stay in touch with employees, even on the go.

But constant communication might actually discourage creativity needed for products and innovation, Carr says. There are certain types of creativity that come only from undivided attention, and by losing the ability to focus, you might be sacrificing one of the most important sources of long-term innovation.

So what can companies do to foster innovation? Carr suggests:

  • Assigning specific time for the Internet and for attentive thinking. To regain a much-needed balance, Carr suggests dedicating time specifically for the Internet and time specifically for focused attention on one task.
  • Disconnecting your employees. Companies need to challenge the assumption that employees should always be available. Some people do their best work when they’re disconnected, and companies should create a work culture that encourages it.

For more of Carr’s insight on how the Internet affects the brain, view this video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kcJv1Z1IFc[/embed]

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