Put Your Phone Away And Look Up

by  Leigh Steere  |  Workplace Issues
Put Your Phone Away And Look Up post image

That’s what I wanted to say to several hundred people in Florida last week. They had paid to enjoy Universal Orlando, but their eyes were glued to tiny screens.

Some visitors even had both hands occupied — tablet in one and selfie stick in the other.

They posed in front of various attractions, held up the selfie stick, clicked, studied the tablet screen, and moved on. They never even turned around to look at the attraction thoroughly. The best details were behind them.

To me, the selfie stick is a metaphor for Corporate America’s creativity dilemma. Organizations seek ways to boost creativity. But myopia is an enemy of creativity, and what is more myopic than a selfie and a tiny screen?

Think of the details you miss. Your eyes give you a panoramic view of the big picture and the smallest details. The camera lens gives you only subset – and even a smaller subset if your self-portrait is featured prominently in the foreground.

What you see in that subset depends on the quality of your photography and size of your monitor. The end result? You are only getting a fraction of the available visual input. And your self-portrait quite possibly keeps you from noticing the surrounding details.

Look Up. Look Out. Be Curious.

While the phone clan was posting Facebook updates, I was reveling in Universal’s attention to detail. What creative process do they use to envision and actualize their themed areas? How do they get from the big picture concept to the tiniest implementation details, such as size and label for the Essence of Dittany apothecary bottle?

What leads a college graduate to apply for hourly work managing the queue of Ollivander’s Wand Shop?

How do the marketing folks attract mammoth crowds on a weekday in early November? How are visitors from the United Kingdom flying here so inexpensively when I can’t find an affordable fare to Heathrow?

Questions lead to conversations lead to more questions and eventually to insights.

Observe. Absorb. Create.

Feeling stuck in a creative rut? Try these steps:

  1. Turn your phone off. Better yet, leave it behind so you are not tempted to check it. Visit someplace new – either in your own city or elsewhere. Be completely present in your surroundings. Notice everything. Listen carefully. Pay attention to your feelings throughout the day.
  2. At the end of the day, ask yourself: “What did I notice today that I do not typically pay attention to? What keeps me from seeing details like these on a day-to-day basis?”
  3. Also ask: “What new questions do I have as a result of my day trip that I would like to explore? How will I explore these questions?” Commit to one follow-up action.
  4. Start a conversation with someone new – perhaps someone on the bus or while waiting in line. You may learn something; you may not. But you are adding data from which to draw during future problem-solving efforts.

People laugh at me. I go on vacation and end up with random information on commercial pool/spa management, the day-to-day work of a CDC epidemiologist, being a U.S. expat in Japan, crime scene investigation techniques, shopping habits based on currency exchange rates, and continuing education options in Manitoba.

Why do I care? Years ago, I read that an idea is two or more known pieces of information assembled in a new way. The more information I absorb, the more contexts I explore, the more fodder I have for idea generation.

If my eyes are glued to a phone, I’m missing out.

Do you agree? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

About The Author

Articles By leigh-steere
Leigh Steere is a researcher, product developer, and adviser in the field of people management. She writes on fostering creativity, employee engagement, and high performance in the workplace. Visit for a free assessment of your management style and tips for managing more effectively.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Bryce Biggs  |  20 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Your article really hits the right note. Gave posted it on all my social networks. Even caused me to smile in embarrassment. Perhaps we need to declare no phone zones as my wife has done during family card games?

Leigh Steere  |  20 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Glad it resonated, Bryce. Thanks for sharing the post! I agree about no-phone zones. Some restaurants are starting to post signs asking patrons to step outside if they need to make a call.

Jon Stallings  |  20 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Important word Leigh. I can’t tell you how many pedestrian collisions I am almost in every day in the building where I work. They can’t wait the short distance from the parking garage to their desk. – There is so much more to life, we just have to remove the distractions to see it.

Leigh Steere  |  20 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Just yesterday, I watched a texting pedestrian walk into a utility pole.
I agree, Jon. There is so much more to life.

Dawn Parry  |  27 Nov 2014  |  Reply

It’s so worrying that people are addicted to what can be described as personal electronic prisons. Enrichment of ourselves, our creativity and our souls comes from living in “the now” and genuinely feeling something about all our experiences and face-to-face engagements with others. To simply live life through the confined prism of a mobile device achieves the same as watching tv of your choice 24 hours a day, every day but never really being in the picture.

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