Want Great Digital Strategy? Stay Away from Tech

4 minute read

29 June 2018

By Insights Team

Innovation Reporter, Upstart

Right now, you’re looking into a screen to read this blog.

Reading this is probably one of at least five things you’re doing at the same time, and you’re already thinking about 10 or 15 things you need to be doing.

Tech has developed exponentially over the past decade, spanning almost every interaction in our lives. Most of us sleep within reach of our devices and they are our primary method of interaction.  Meanwhile the distraction factories of content marketing and social media are hijacking our brains on an industrial scale.

It’s no wonder then, that business leaders are coming to us and saying that they - and their teams - can’t clear the space to think, and act on a strategic vision. Urgent seems to trump important every day.

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Strategy needs updating. We’ve already stated our position, that in today’s environment, no-one has the time for a drawn-out strategy process. Yet it’s never been more important to create space to think, even for the smaller, near-term strategic challenges.

Everyone is overloaded.  Our attentional systems were not designed to deal with so much information. We see more people in a day than a hunter-gatherer would see in a lifetime. Add the intense amount of information being delivered through screens small and large, as well as every-day stimulus and you begin to understand the impossible pressures under which we're putting our feeble primate brains.

We need time and space.  Last year I took time to read Daniel Levitin’s book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload.  It’s a handy guide to surviving our age, understanding how our attentional systems are wired for novelty and how we got to this stage of distraction, (and also forgiving yourself for succumbing to clickbait).

We’ve incorporated that into our practice here at Upstart, and our non-negotiable starting point for working with teams is that they should offer us total focus to the sessions they’re involved in. Our belief is that strategic thinking is as much about creativity as numbers, so we’ve borrowed (OK, stolen) from parts of the creative process.

That means a host of small things, including working in a stimulating environment (we're based in London's creative and digital capital Shoredtich for a reason) and we’re certain that creating valuable thinking and output demands your undiluted attention.

Step away from the mobile device.

Saloons in the wild west would demand weapons to be checked in. If you want access to the Thinktaorium (a hub of deep thinking inside our office), you check in your connected device. Studies show that even the presence and temptation of a mobile phone can lower IQ by 10 points.  


How many times have you been in a meeting only to be interrupted by devices demanding attention?  When we're working the Upstart way in our programmes,  checking phones into our Connected Device Amnesty Zone gives us space to truly focus on finding solutions.



Today society equates busy-ness with importance. The more indispensable we are, the more status we’re perceived to have. We believe that even busy leaders should be able to unplug, even if it’s for a day and a half.  If any text, email or slack is important enough for your attention to be elsewhere, then you probably shouldn’t be in the meeting.

We understand that the temptation to not touch your device is near impossible - studies have shown that when presented with images of family and mobile devices, the same areas of the brain lit up, displaying the same level of emotional attachment. Our Connected Device Amnesty Box (phones, tablets, laptops and yes, wearables, go in) is a vital tool for Upstart programmes to ensure dedication and focus from our team and yours.

Silicon Valley futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that we will see artificial intelligence outperform human intelligence by as early as 2029. Though AI may be smarter on measurable scale, what won’t be achieved in the foreseeable future is the emotion and creativity that keeps us as individuals. Success in a digital age will be achieved by utilising the intelligence and capabilities of tech alongside the power of human nature.

Like the sound of the way we work? Check out or services for a better understanding.

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