Fri, 10 Jan 2020
(Reading time: Approximately 6 minutes)
Okay, so it’s not exactly the most attractive heading… (or blog button picture). If you searched and found this article and thought it was about passing on information in some sort of espionage-like way to people who shouldn’t have it, then you’ve stumbled onto the wrong blog.
But don’t leave just yet…
By the way, if you literally wondered how you could stop leaking, you may want to consider medical help. Just saying...
However, if like many of us, you struggle with the challenge of reading an ever-accumulating amount of interesting and useful information, but somehow feeling a bit more stupid than you did a week ago (despite how much more knowledge you have accumulated), you’ve come to the right place.
The web is awash with the sentiment of “the more we learn, the less we know”. The quote, or variations of it, are attributed to everyone from Aristotle to Einstein. And while it may not be strictly true in every sense, there may be a semblance of validity to the statement, when you consider how things work these days.
Look around you and everyone seems to be an expert at something or the other. Or are they? Let's face it. There is a fair amount of sheer rubbish out there that prompts us to move along very quickly just at first glance. But, there is also much of what we read that has a semblance of logic, sense or usefulness about it, depending how the writer has put it together and presented their case.
The problem for us is how to deal with the really interesting and seemingly mind-altering, even life-changing information that we become aware of. It often seems to make clear sense and make us feel like we could really use it to change our own lives and make a difference in the world around us; but then, very soon after, we go and find the next bit of information that supersedes the previous one.
And so, like gulping down a bottle of chilled water on a hot summer’s day to quench our thirst after taking a long walk in the countryside or expending some energy elsewhere, we drink up and accumulate the knowledge that is so easy to access around us, but unlike having our thirst quenched by the water, we seem to just want more, without doing anything useful with it.
Now, don’t get me wrong – having a desire to learn more as we grow and mature as human beings, is not a bad thing. But, contrary to what some may believe, not all knowledge is good knowledge and when we find we are consuming copious amounts of information, but not really doing anything with it, then we may have to consider that we have a problem.
A number of things start to happen to us:
• We consume information for information’s sake and effectively become info junkies. Our time is taken up and even lost pursuing the happiness and fulfilment of using and applying useful information, but never actually using it
• We start to become perfectionistic about how much info we need before we feel we are able to act on it. We turn our pursuit for information into an idol to be worshipped
• We become idle waiting for conditions to become perfect and so become ineffective and maybe even useless
• We are faced with so many choices in terms of the information we’ve gathered that we can’t decide what to choose. “Which is the better piece of information? What if I choose something that turns out to be less useful than something else. What if I then miss out on opportunities by using the information I already have, instead of something better that may be on the info horizon? What if I look stupid because I opted for the wrong thing? What if...”
• And finally, we may even start to leak information. We have so much info accumulated, that we have a real sense of being unable to retain it all. No matter how much we are accumulating through reading articles or books, watching television or YouTube clips or TED talks, or how much we are listening to podcasts, talk radio or those around us, we just can’t seem to retain the info in a way that helps us process and do something with it. And we just feel overwhelmed, stupid and useless. And we do nothing, becoming paralysed by fear of not knowing enough to do anything worthwhile.
In a time when most people appear to be increasingly narcissistic, self-absorbed, inward looking and over-sensitive, this all becomes even more dangerous. People become more prone to anxiety, depression and other things that impact negatively on their well-being.
Most of us know the old adage, it is better to give than to receive. Saying it is one thing, believing it is another - and living it out is even harder. Our societies live as if the opposite is true. But, it isn’t. It IS actually better to give than to receive. And when we stop obsessing about accumulating knowledge without actually using it, we will find ourselves in a better place.
If I read a book full of recipes, find the pictures alluring and the thought of the flavours irresistible, but never cook a single thing, what use would that be? However, what if I read one simple recipe, and stepped out to get the ingredients and then actually attempted cooking the meal?
And so what if it doesn’t turn out to be brilliant.. I will either give it another go or put it to one side knowing I had tried.
And what if it turns out great? What if I shared that meal with someone else? I would probably end up bringing some joy and enjoyment in that little moment. And, it would no doubt help make the world a better place, if only for that short time.
Get the picture?
Next time, I will consider what this means in an organisation context.
But, for now, it's probably worth stopping to think about the ways in which we accummulate information for its own sake, only to find ourselves negatively impacted because we don't put it to good use. What bite-sized bit of learning have you done recently and actually used? Celebrate it if you have. It'll probably have already brought a smile to your face just thinking about it.
But, if you haven't done anything... Well, I'm sure you've been challenged in the same way I have been pondering all this.