Digital amnesia making us more creative


Being able to offload facts onto devices is vital for the generation of new ideas

Digital amnesia, the experience of forgetting information entrusted to a digital device, has been found to offer a significant business benefit in a world where data overload reduces our ability to take in new ideas and think creatively. A study by Kaspersky Lab found that the use of smartphones, tablets and laptops to outsource some of our more mundane memories can help unleash this frozen inspiration.

Nearly half (46%) of the business professionals surveyed said that the more detail they have to remember, the less creative they become. At the same time, three quarters believe that it is worth hanging on to all those details since they contain the seeds of future creativity.  Many employees reconcile this apparent contradiction by using their devices as a complementary long-term memory store.

Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, lecturer of business psychology at University College London, commented on this, saying: “Creativity takes place in our short term ‘working memory’, where information is temporarily held for processing, reasoning and learning.  The working memory draws on the deeper knowledge we have stored in our long term memory to find connections to spark creativity.”

In this way, digital amnesia allows business professionals to free up mind space for creative thought, while at the same time building up an external, digital bank of facts that will fuel future inspiration. Two thirds (63%) said that some of their best ideas have come from rediscovering information they had stored on a device and then forgotten.

Ahmetoglu continued: “People tend to distort, forget or selectively remember information they keep in their short and even long term memory, and creativity may be hampered by this inaccurate or incomplete information. Further, transferring something from working to long term memory takes effort. Digital devices, if used effectively, can facilitate individual creativity by making all this easier and more accurate, enabling the collection, storage, exploration, and integration of knowledge.”

According to 69% of those surveyed, a further business benefit of digital amnesia is that digitally-stored intelligence can be easily and accurately shared with others for collaborative thinking.  This is what drives business innovation;  turning all individual creative ideas into new or enhanced products and services.

“Outsourcing some of your thought processes to a digital device is an obvious solution in today’s connected world. The information stored on these devices, whether it’s business information or crucial elements of current and future innovation, represents an increasingly valuable target for competitors or cybercriminals with the tools to gain access. A multi-layered and effective cyber security solution is essential for keeping those big ideas safely within the business,” concluded David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.

Significantly, the study reveals that it is not laziness that prompts a heavy dependence on devices for remembering; only around half (45%) believe there is no point wasting energy trying to remember things if they have a device to do it for them.


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