The World Wide Web was an idea that changed the world. But how has it changed us?
After 20 years, it’s undeniable that the Web presents vast opportunities to find inspiration and process nuggets of creativity into full-blown campaigns. The sharing facilities of the Net mean that a creative block is no longer an insurmountable barrier. Working alone is no longer lonely and group brainstorming no longer demands a venue and face-to-face interaction. We can be judged, helped and measured by millions of people in a number of minutes, across geographic and language divides.
But is this accessibility to the minds and experiences of the whole world dulling our experimentation with and development of ideas?
There can be no doubt that connectivity offers a previously inconceivable ability to inspire and open up our minds, but there’s a potential danger if access to all those ideas allow us to engage less in original mental activity as we try to process so much without allotting enough time to reflect. Aside from the risk of becoming unintentional plagiarists, we must always use our own imagination and our own insight. Otherwise, we’re simply subliminally copying what others have done before.
Even the wackiest, weirdest, darkest ideas can begin to seem normal when you realise that there are millions out there who think just like you. In that regard, perhaps can it be argued that the Internet has made us more honest, more transparent.
Now, everything we do can be recorded and tracked. It can be proved more easily when something has been done before. Ask a colleague, though, to name his or her top five creative campaigns this year and notice that person struggle. Why? Because although the Web provides an unprecedented space for sharing, one thing remains the same: Only the biggest and best ideas live forever. An expansive idea never stops.
Certainly, where once we would have picked up a book when seeking information, now we go online. Has this affected our ability to find appropriate inspiration, therefore permanently affecting the quality of output?
Prior to Aug. 6, 1991, did we visit a museum, a library, an art gallery to find ideas? Did we try to escape the city and find somewhere remote, connected to nature? Were our ideas then, sought independently, more real?
That’s not even considering the inspiration and energy that come from human interaction, in real time, with real people. We’re now “connected” to so much that true intimacy requires investment and commitment—still possible, but harder to reach.
The challenge is in shutting ourselves off—however occasionally and briefly but definitely completely—from the noise of the Internet.
In that momentary silence is the space we all need to ignite authentic and lasting ideas.
Ideas that change the world.
by Patrick Danaher
Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network