Last week, the homework assignment for one of my entrepreneurship classes was for each student to think about and write down what the value of the Internet is to them.
The purpose of this assignment was to teach the students the difference between describing how they use something and its true value. As entrepreneurs, we often fail to do this and get caught up in the thing we are doing and forget to step back and recognize what the core value is of our product or service.
Additionally, I wanted the students to focus on trying to channel truly creative thinking by removing anything that might distract them.
To achieve this, I added to the assignment the following parameters:
After you write down your initial thoughts on the value of the Internet you must then unplug completely for 30 minutes and reflect on this further. Walk away from your phone, iPod, computer and TV and sit somewhere and reflect. Then, after 30 minutes are up come back to your original notes and modify them with what you have thought about.
The results were…. surprising.
These students did a great job, as I expected, in identifying the value of the Internet to them and wrote excellent insights to how it has helped shape their thinking, extended their knowledge and connect them to others.
What was surprising, however, was how difficult they felt it was to unplug for 30 minutes!
Many wrote about being hesitant to walk away from their smart phones and in some cases had their room mates take them away physically and hide them. Some could not sit still and started tidying up their rooms and pacing. One student couldn’t do it and decide to give up on the assignment all together.
After about 10-15 minutes many students wrote about a growing sense of themselves falling behind the rest of the world and not knowing what was happening and how stressful this made them feel. (amazing, eh? yes, this was only a 30 minute activity).
During the final 10-15 minutes a lot of the students started getting into deeper thoughts about their assignment and managed to develop some very strong and meaningful insights. Many also started to identify a little sadness or longing for times when life wasn’t so busy and they could read a book for fun, play cards or enjoy simpler things.
I couldn’t agree more.
We all are moving extremely fast in this busy world trying to pack just a few more things into our day and accomplish just one more task (or respond to just one more email). This leaves very little time for truly creative and deep thinking and without that reflective time I believe we will miss some truly amazing and disruptive ideas.
I think we all could benefiting from unplugging for 30 minutes… don’t you?