Why looking down is killing creativity in PR

The historian Simon Schama said in The Guardian recently that we have become the "look down" generation.

Creativity thrives on collaboration, says Claire Bridges
Creativity thrives on collaboration, says Claire Bridges
Where once we looked out at the world and each other – the view in front of us being our primary source of information – today, he says, we frequently lower our gaze to interact with our phone or tablet. 

In the evolutionary blink of an eye, a significant number of our social interactions now happen on-screen. And according to various (beloved) PR studies the average smartphone user reaches for it at 7:31am, checking it 110–150 times, adding up to 3¼ hours a day. 

This made me wonder whether the technological advances of the past decade may have crept up and bitten us on our collective, creative, backsides and what impact is all this having on creativity in PR? 

Creativity is PR’s lifeblood. 

It’s debated, coveted, bragged about, awarded, misunderstood. There is a seemingly unrelenting requirement for it.  

But there are barriers to being creative in PR and most often cited in our workshops is lack of time. But does the 24/7 news cycle, infomania and the much-bandied-about always-on mean that we must all be always-on? 

The importance of idea-time that leads to creative output is well documented. 

Google’s famous 20 per cent time came from the 70:20:10 innovation rule – 70 per cent of time spent on core business, 20 per cent on projects adjacent to the core (newish) and 10 per cent on brand new, riskier ideas. 

Maybe the PR industry will never reach these dizzy heights, but could we free up time for ideas by making some small changes like getting away from our screens?

Almost all creative processes include a period of incubation – noodling time – for our unconscious mind to find insights and make connections.

We need to create space to problem solve and I believe that this constant ‘looking down’ is to the detriment of creativity in our industry.

Schama also observed that by looking down we are in danger of getting stuck in our own tiny worlds of like-minded people where we’re creating "personalised micro-tribes".

This is not good for creativity either. 

Steve Jobs famously said that "creativity is just connecting things". Are you going to get that broad frame of reference on the world from constantly looking down?

Novelist Philip Hensher ponders if actually making eye contact with someone has almost become a taboo. 

But looking up and outwards makes conversation with another human being more likely and it might just be in those in moments that an idea is formed, discussed, digested. 

Creativity thrives on collaboration.

Of course our devices do provide us with inspiration and stimulation, among many other benefits, but can you genuinely say that your creativity at work is positively influenced by your screen time? 

Perhaps if we occasionally cut off our internet connection, we might just reconnect with our creativity. 

Claire Bridges is the founder of Now Go Create 

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