A little less information, a little more action

My New Year’s resolution was to cut the current – to step away from the real-time information flow so that I can spend more time thinking and reflecting.

The first part of this has gone very well. The second part hasn’t – though I have reflected enough to realise that a third, related, aspect should have been included in the resolution.

I’ve successfully stepped away from the real-time more out of necessity than choice – my schedule has been unrelenting for several months now. I’m hoping that this will soon change, and that I can spend more time on both reflection and the overlooked aspect.

Before I divulge that, a brief review of three months of being more distanced.

On the whole, I’m happy with the decision. I may be less active on social media nowadays, but I’d argue I’m more efficient (albeit starting from a low base).

Despite potential benefits around phatic communication, the online signal-noise ratio problem is well-known.

Arguably a deeper problem is in filtering the signal strength – not all useful or relevant information is equal. What seems meaningful or resonant at the time can quickly turn out to be transitory or inconsequential.

I sincerely doubt that I’m now more discerning or incisive in my reading choice, but I do feel like my filtering of priority information has improved.

To give an example, I have a broad interest in technology and social media. As a consumer researcher, I need to understand trends, and ideally identify them before they reach critical mass.

But realistically, Austin is so far removed from the Home Counties that the information is largely superfluous. Beyond a basic knowledge of what the likes of  Beluga, Color, Path, Groupme, Quora, Instagram et al are providing (not least to see if they would be relevant to my atypical needs), I don’t need to know any more about them.

At least not yet. Do you know the proportion of the UK population that has heard of Foursquare? Not used, but heard of. How about Quora? The figures are 5% and 1% respectively (data comes from the digital media tracker I run).

They may morph into the next Twitter, but they may not. Furthermore, it isn’t the products or technologies I’m interested in, but the behaviours – Kevin Kelly has a nice diagram of benefits vs. company. And consumer behaviour (let alone attitude) is pretty slow to shift.

They may morph into Twitter, but they may not. Wired’s top 10 tech start-ups of 2008 doesn’t fill me with confidence. Only LinkedIn (21% UK awareness) and AdMob are relevant to me. That’s a 20% success rate from a small sample size – it would be much lower if you counted every company on Wired’s radar.

The slow speed of shifting attitudes and behaviours are why  so many of the “classic texts” – Ogilvy, Ries, Drucker, Peters, Collins, Covey, Pink, Gladwell etc – are still relevant.

Shamefully, I’ve read very few of these. This will hopefully be rectified as I make better use of the time spent away from the firehose.

Once I improve upon this, I can move to the next piece of the puzzle.

Doing.

It is good to improve upon my sources of reading, but it is also a very limited ambition. In the same way that innovation builds upon invention, I should seek to create a practical outlet for my reading. Ideas are good, execution is great.

Given that I deal with knowledge and information, my definition of  “doing” is going to be far narrower than that which Neil Perkin has been excellently espousing. But the likes of Noah Brier, Neil Charles and Rich Shaw have shown that it is possible to merge technical proficiency with clarity of thought.

My short-term goals are going to be small-scale – I haven’t managed to port my blog over to a .com address (admittedly, procrastination has been the main obstacle) so I’m not going to be coding any apps.

But even a better understanding of Microsoft Office will help me improve as a researcher – both through more efficient uses of what I already know and the introduction of new functionality (macros?). Reading informs of the overt or already discovered trends or approaches, but a merging of reading and doing widens the scope to not only think of something new, but to actually implement it.

This entry also acts as a good excuse to repost this Dolph Lungren video

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