How can we keep on top of rapid change when we are overwhelmed with information? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
There are five fundamental capabilities that allow us to shift from an experience of overwhelm to one of empowerment, allowing us to use today’s abundance of information to keep ahead of change.
Today everyone is subject to an excess of information. Scientific advances, industry shifts, new technologies, economic restructuring, and rapidly developing health alerts result in a feeling that we simply cannot keep up. Our response must be to work at developing five critical capacities that, taken together, enable us to thrive in a world of overload.
We must begin by considering our purpose for engaging with information at all. Starting from defining issues such as what we want to achieve, the expertise we want to develop, and what will help us improve our wellbeing tell us what information is useful and relevant to us, and what we can ignore.
The second capability is framing, bringing together all the pertinent information we come across into frameworks of understanding. As we identify the connections between updates and new ideas we can start to build the foundations for knowledge and expertise in the domains of our choice. These in turn help us to determine what information adds to our knowledge.
Filtering is the everyday practice of clearly discerning the information that serves us so we can ignore what is irrelevant, incorrect, or misleading. This stems from judiciously selecting a diverse portfolio of reliable and complementary information sources, and using a set of consistent approaches to reduce quantity while increasing quality.
The fourth capability is attention, in allocating our awareness with clear intention. Our attention is limited and can easily become fragmented in a world of overload. There are a number of modes of attention that are important for creating value from information, including scanning, assimilating, and deep-diving. If we move too quickly between different information tasks we will not be able to identify what is useful and develop our knowledge. We need to spend periods of time in each attention mode to distill value from the ideas we encounter.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, is the capacity for synthesis. The faster the world moves, the greater the importance of ‘connecting the dots,’ understanding how diverse developments fit together, in order to gain powerful insight and ultimately make better decisions. Synthesis is a subtle art, one that we need to nurture through practices that help open our minds and cultivate our capability of making creative connections between ideas.
The pace of change is accelerating. Developing these five capabilities provides a valuable foundation for keeping on top of change and succeeding in an increasingly fast-moving world.
This question originally appeared on Quora.
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