Can you think differently?

by Russ Hill on March 24, 2010

So many of us are so limited in our ability to think differently.  We become trapped by routine and experience.  We want to innovate.  We yearn to do things differently, and yet we find it so difficult to move our crayons outside the lines.

My mind is on this topic after doing some reading and research on Apple’s iPad.

No, this isn’t going to be a blog post about how the iPad is God’s gift to the earth.  (Don’t worry that post is coming.  But, I’ll wait until after the machine I ordered weeks ago is delivered in late April.)

I’m thinking about the iPad because of something Steven Levy wrote.  Levy suggests that everyone talking about the iPad has completely missed the real genius of the device.  A device he says will change the computer forever.

“Yes, the iPad is designed for reading, gaming, and media consumption. But it also represents an ambitious rethinking of how we use computers,” Levy wrote in Wired.

Levy makes the simple yet rare observation that what Apple is attempting to do with the iPad is get all of us to redefine the computer as a device that no longer includes a keyboard, a mouse, or even files and folders.


Think about it.  When we all first saw the iPhone we thought, “who would surf the Internet on some small thing like that?”  When it was suggested that the iPhone, or now the Droid, could be used as a GPS device we all thought, “and replace my Garmin?  Ha!”

And yet, now there is no better GPS machine than a smartphone.  There is no more convenient way to find something online than on these devices.  And, we’re even playing thousands of games on them too.

Apple is hoping its iPad will be just as revolutionary.  They know what we’re all thinking.  “Why would we use that horribly named device for reading or typing emails?  It doesn’t even have a keyboard!”

And, yet, if Levy is right, in a few years we’ll look back and laugh that keyboards and mice used to be plugged into computers.  We’ll laugh that there used to be more to a laptop than a screen.  We’ll look back and laugh that files used to be stored on a single machine rather than accessible from any device.

It’s almost as stupid as when people used to have to talk on phones attached to walls.

Engineers in Apple dared to envision a phone that was more than a phone.  Now, it appears they are daring to envision a computer without a mouse or keyboard.

It makes you wonder what we’re doing in our professions, our businesses, our lives that is so routine and so engrained in us that we can’t imagine it differently.  The great challenge for all of us to envision the future free of our self-inflicted limitations.  We must if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities that exist.

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