The advent of the internet has done some great things. It has allowed us to connect with each other around the world without being in the same room.  It has allowed more focused research.  It has allowed us to capture the best and brightest on any topic.  But does it have any negative impacts?

To study this, some research was done on how the internet impacts the brain.  People were given a passage to be read on a computer but it was just straight text and you just pressed the arrow to advance to the next page.  Then they gave people the exact same text but it had some of the words highlighted as hypertext that you could click on to gain more information.  What they found startled the researchers.

The people who read just the straight text scored significantly higher on comprehension of what they read and more surprising, they enjoyed the passage better than those that had the hypertext and links.  So what does this mean for you?

It means that more is not necessarily better.  What they now believe is that when people read on the internet, each hypertext they come upon requires them to disengage their brain from what they are reading to make a decision “Do I click on the link or keep reading?”  These continual “interruptions” actually derail them from comprehending what they are reading and slow their enjoyment as they become more “disassociated” with what they are reading.

At work, look at how your ability to focus is being impacted.  Do you allow people to bring cell phones in to meetings where they can read emails during a meeting? If so, you are probably running in to the same “disengagement” that I was talking about above.  How effective do you think decisions being made in that environment are?

Try this experiment and email me your results.  Try for one month to commit to all meetings being 30 minutes.  Require people to leave cell phones on silent for the meeting and keep focused at the items at task only.  See what happens with the quality of decisions being made!