Inspiration in a Digital Age + A Digression

While sources for creative inspiration on the web abound, recently I’ve been blown away by in-person, real-life inspiring experiences. In the mad crush of grad school, moving, and planning a wedding, I’d almost forgotten how incredible art exhibits, live music, leisurely meals, and time spent quietly in nature can be.

Most adult Americans spend about 8.5 hours daily in front of screens. An additional 8 hours are spent sleeping. The remaining 7.5 hours of the day are often taken up by meetings, meals, grooming, commuting, household maintenance, and maintaining relationships. There is no natural space for a non-digital inspirational experience.

Despite this seeming death sentence for non-digital experiences, restaurants, museums, and concerts are alive and well. What if we’ve reached saturation in terms of digital interaction? What if our usage time starts to dwindle? What if it doesn’t?

Ernest Cline poses one fascinating optional reality in his novel Ready Player One, set in a world where life is lived almost entirely online. We’re not far away from having the technology to enable that type of life. In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, he asserts that “what you see is all there is.” Our beliefs, our inspiration, and our perception of the world is based on the information we have. We cannot know what we don’t know. If all we see are carefully selected, flattering, and sometimes photoshopped images and Pinterest-perfect meals, how long will it take before the altered overtakes the actual in “what we know?” If our primary mode of existence is digital, will it matter if perception skews toward the altered version of reality?

In designing experiences, digital and non-digital, we strive to evoke visceral, non-digital meaning. We ask ourselves “what does our brand smell like? what would it have for lunch?” Human centered design, a rising trend, holds fast to the humanity of the user, striving to understand the real over the rational. Inspiration from tactile experiences is embraced and encouraged. Brands like Aerie, Dove, and Debenhams are rejecting airbrushed imagery. Other services, like Meetup and Mosey, facilitate non-digital experiences. These trends indicate that digital reality hasn’t yet won.


For now, I will continue to luxuriate in the smell and taste of delicious meals, the texture of interesting fabrics and old books, and all the sounds of live music. I will be inspired by heady discussions over wine with my friends, classmates, and my partner, living in analog.


You: By the Numbers

Something unexpected about getting an MBA is the number of assessments we’ve taken for various classes. Some may seem superficial, but may apply more accurately than you’d think. I struggled with taking the assessments based on my actions and actual emotions, rather than how I wanted to act and feel. In any case, it’s been interesting to amass the results and see how they relate.

Here’s a collection of them:

Emotional Intelligence: Assesses your Social Competence and Personal Competence, and helps you identify strategies to improve. (Accompanied by a book, $13.70.)

Strengthsfinder: This assessment finds your top five strengths from a list of 34. It identifies how to best leverage these strengths and how to avoid over-using them. (Accompanied by a book, $13.40.)

TKI Conflict Assessment: An assessment that shows your general affinity with five conflict styles: Collaborating, Avoiding, Accommodating, Compromising, and Competing. ($40 for an individual, discounted for groups and education)

Reflected Best Self: Certainly the most personal assessment. It involves asking your friends, family, and colleagues to give you examples of “when you are at your best.” I asked something like 35 people and got 21 responses. The recommendation is to try and get 20 responses for a representative sample. Some people found it harder than expected to get responses, so don’t feel too bummed out if people don’t respond right away and you have to prod them! (FREE)

The following analyze your impact on the planet:

Water Footprint (FREE)

Global Footprint Network (FREE)

The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint (FREE)

The most insightful assessment has been the Reflected Best Self. Although it’s supremely awkward to ask your colleagues to write you examples of when you are at your best, it’s very useful. It’s validated some of the results I got on other assessments. Some results were expected, and some were very surprising. I highly recommend just doing it.

The footprint calculators have inspired me to eat significantly less dairy and eggs as a personal sustainability project. It’s amazing how much water and resource it takes to create animal product. I was aware of the impact of meat, but not dairy and eggs. You may be surprised at which habits you have that are particularly impactful!