Book Club or Cocktail Party?

The internet is a wonderful thing. That’s lucky for all of us as I’m quite sure it’s here to stay. . But as the internet evolves and becomes ever more pervasive, we’re faced with a completely new way of interacting with our environment. What’s the impact of being surrounded by such an attention grabbing and rapidly moving addictive presence? How will it affect the way you lead and manage?

Every day we hear of some new way the internet is expanding its grasp on and control of…everything. The tech world, and the investment community, are ecstatic. For many others, though, the incomprehensible changes in the way we communicate and interact on a personal level are cause for concern.

Cognition researchers are investigating the effects this is having on our original data management device – our brain. They’ve uncovered that it’s not only the way we interact that is changing, the way we think is also changing.

Being online nurtures fluid intelligence. It’s like living in a never-ending cocktail party; an ever-changing environment of distractions that’s in constant motion and encourages rapid change, quick boredom, surface thought, mental agility and flexibility. And it leads to short attention spans and skimming.

Being offline, in contrast, nurtures crystallizing intelligence. It’s like living in a book club. It’s an environment of focus, slow movement, concentration, and deep thought. And it leads to more complexity, wider context, and deeper understanding.

Fluid intelligence is more about sensation, immediacy, and existing in the moment while crystallizing intelligence is more about thoughtfulness, depth, intentionality, and meaning. Everyone has some of each but the mix varies from one extreme to the other.

How you apportion these mental states makes a difference in how you think, how you act, and the results you achieve. It underlies how you present yourself, how you communicate, and the messages you give. It determines the he environment you require to perform at your best.

The culture of an organization run on fluid intelligence is much different from one run on crystallizing intelligence. A fluid intelligence culture attracts those who function best when in a state of constant movement. People who skim and bounce around rapidly, who process information quickly, decide instantly, juggle multiple ideas simultaneously. People who like a constant state of not knowing what will appear next.

A culture based on crystallizing intelligence attracts those who like a slower pace. People who move from idea to idea after fully contemplating each one, who like uncovering a deeper understanding, and finding the overall context. People who like to know what’s coming next and have time to prepare for its arrival.

Fluid without crystallizing loses depth, detail, context, complexity, density, and permanency. Crystallizing without fluid loses spontaneity, randomness, simplicity, lightness, and speed of response.

While the push these days is towards fluid intelligence, all organizations need a blend of both fluid and crystallizing, a culture and people who embrace the strengths of the online life while balancing it with the strengths of the offline life. The yin of the cocktail party with the yang of the book club.


Commenting area

  1. Steve, I think this was a great post. But I’m not sure because I only skimmed it. Gotta go to a cocktail party now!

  2. Dan, Sorry it took me so long to respond but I was reading a book.

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