The iPad kills Creativity?

Peter Bregman shares why he returned his iPad:

The brilliance of the iPad is that it’s the anytime-anywhere computer. On the subway. In the hall waiting for the elevator. In a car on the way to the airport. Any free moment becomes a potential iPad moment.

The iPhone can do roughly the same thing, but not exactly. Who wants to watch a movie in bed on an iPhone?

So why is this a problem? It sounds like I was super-productive. Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming.

But something — more than just sleep, though that’s critical too — is lost in the busyness. Something too valuable to lose.

Boredom.

Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that’s where creativity arises.

My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These “wasted” moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.

They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They’re the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.

To lose those moments, to replace them with tasks and efficiency, is a mistake. What’s worse is that we don’t just lose them. We actively throw them away.

I don’t totally agree with Peter, but I do get his point. Perhaps it is his use of the word “boredom” that does not sit right with me, as I associate boredom with a negative frame of mind or an idle/lazy mindset. But his point is clear; it is when our minds are going through a downtime that the ideas hit.
This reminds me of another recent post on the New York Times blog, Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, that flows along these same lines. The Internet’s easy access of information encourages online addiction and fosters multitasking behavior that leads to lower productivity, and in Peter’s case, creativity.
It seems that the iPad is, or going to become, the ultimate consumption device and we will pay the price for its eventual ubiquity. The reality is that there is a consequence for every choice we make.
So the next time you want to get creative, get off the computer, stop surfing the Internet, quit browsing design magazines, and turn off the iPad. Take a break (or a walk) and do something that does not require information processing of any kind.

Quote via Harvard Business Review.

10 Comments
  • Rene Lee

    June 25, 2010 at 10:40 am Reply

    I saw your tweet, read your post, and got inspired all through an iPad. I’m not sure if one could say iPad only kills creativity.
    iPad, like anything, is a tool, which means it really depends what you use it for. I use the ipad for watching iTunes university, Ted talks, reading kindle books, catching up on Twitter among the things. I’m positive that meditative contemplation sometimes lead to unexpected epiphanies, but all those hinge cant happen without inspiration.
    In short, I haven’t felt that creativity suffers from iPad, if you choose what you consume wisely. I think it can be a tool for communication, inspiration, and stimulation, which are as crucial to creativity as a dull moment. That’s what dead batteries are for 🙂

  • DT

    June 25, 2010 at 11:44 am Reply

    Nice comment Rene. You are astute to say that it is about wise or clever consumption.
    It is that maturity and self-control that many people struggle with. Even myself, multitasking, watching world cup, tweeting, reading blog posts, and designing. There is a consequence to it all. What I think the point of Peter is that the iPad makes it too easy to consume, and just like kids hooked on Pokemon on their Nintendos, it can be a bad habit.
    On a tangential note, a large amount of data on the web is either spam or just passing on information. Very little of it is user generated or created. In fact this post is really “passing on” information as well, but at least (I hope!), I’m trying to add value to the discussion, when in fact many other posts or tweets are not.
    At the end of the day this sort of consumption culture is a reflection of how the data on the web is created, generated, moved and shared.

  • Rene Lee

    June 26, 2010 at 1:25 am Reply

    Wow there’s lot of ipad typos on my comment.
    I must admit that I waste way to much time flicking around on the iPad home screen because the rubber banding is so satisfying.
    That said, I think that ipad’s consumption focus does seem to bother those who want to be more ‘creative’, or productive at least.
    But on the flip side, I do see the merit of enhancing the consumption experience for the masses. If I look at the develope

  • Rene Lee

    June 26, 2010 at 2:01 am Reply

    Wow there’s lot of ipad typos on my comment.
    I must admit that I waste way to much time flicking around on the iPad home screen because the rubber banding is so satisfying.
    That said, I think that ipad’s consumption focus does seem to bother those who want to be more ‘creative’, or productive at least.
    But on the flip side, I do see the merit of enhancing the consumption experience for the masses. If I look at all the iphone developers who benefit from a platform for that actually rewards them for their creativity (as opposed to piracy) and how the iTunes ecosystem is allowing artists and film makers to generate revenue (post napster), iPad can be seen as a way to allow others like the press to be creative from another point of view.
    Maybe the way to look at the iPad is like a beautiful dish. A chef can’t cook anything with a dish. But chef needs a lot of dishes to serve his food. I think for the longest time we’ve been serving food on frying pans and stoves.
    As you pointed out, lots of content on the web is free, but also superficial. What we need is more ways to people to consume in ways that reward the producers. In that sense, I think the iPad is not any damaging to creativity as is a dish to a chef.

  • timfife

    June 26, 2010 at 6:33 am Reply

    I seem to remember the same argument being made about blackberry’s about ten years back. The ubiquitous nature of crackberry’s fueled the myth of increased productivity, but was said to be killing the art of daydreaming (perhaps a more positive view of boredom). I seem to recall an anecdote about an executive of a major North American firm who scheduled into every day one hour where he would turn his blackberry off, and pretty much stare out the window, allowing himself the opportunity to daydream, and allow those subconscious structures and mechanisms to do their thing and make those unthought of connections. Seems like this type of discipline might been needed in the age of the iPad as well.

  • Gunnar Andreassen

    June 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm Reply

    It’s almost like saying the iPad is too good.

  • Sebastian

    June 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm Reply

    I think that the meant “incubation” when he speaks of “boredom”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incubation_%28psychology%29

  • Ian

    June 27, 2010 at 8:15 am Reply

    Interesting article. I have been thinking about buying an iPad so I can increase my productivity and get more things done. I am aware, however, that since I started blogging on my newly built wordpress site I seem constantly busy and very disorganised. Maybe because I feel like I have so much to do? Your article has invited me to think about the impact of another device to “do” things on when maybe I should just be “being” more.

  • Saikat

    June 28, 2010 at 5:43 pm Reply

    I think it does kill creativity… so does everything else, but only if you let it do so. Thanks for the post DT.

  • Shawn

    July 8, 2010 at 3:05 am Reply

    Great post. Very though provoking, and something I constantly struggle with. There’s just too much interesting stuff out there!

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