Learning Content and Volume

Getting value out of all the attention we spend

My entire adult life I’ve been a voracious reader and ‘consumer’ of information. Books and newspapers soon were joined by videos, podcasts, and websites which added to a long list of events — talks, seminars, courses, and exhibits — that I’d take in. I’m not naive to think that all of this was for learning, much of it was for entertainment, too. Learning about the world excites me and inspires me in what I make and help others to make, too.

But the keyword here — learning — is what is perhaps the most suspect. As someone who has built a career in psychology and design I’m well aware of what Herbert Simon once coined “the attention economy”. I was further reminded of his work reading a recent piece in the New York Times about the Cassandra of the Internet, Michael Goldhaber. His work has focused on how our attention has fractured and continues to do so in the age of the Internet, evermore focused on everything and thus, nothing much. It’s another reminder of an innovator’s challenge

Trap and Release

Great innovators time their work — not always intentionally — to the market. This might be to meet a demand or to anticipate a certain demand and thus come to shape it. Sometimes it’s luck, but it’s also something that can be designed for. There’s not a lot we can do about the first part, whereas design is all about the second part. So that’s what I focus on.

Much of this is tied to paying attention to trends, drivers, and threats and anticipating what might come. After all, innovation and change are always future-oriented seeing that our efforts are about making something that can’t exist right now, but might exist tomorrow with our efforts. This means we need to be adept at paying attention and doing our research.

Amy Webb speaks to the way in which threats to the media sector might have been anticipated had they put together the trends in mobile communications, internet technology, the addition of cameras in phones, and more that, collectively, has completed upended the media landscape. Her recent interview in Rotman Magazine is worth the read.

I am interested in innovation as an idea and practice and thus, my scope of vision is enormous. What I struggle with is how I trap my attention and release it at the same time. If I pay attention to everything, I’m paying attention to nothing. There is not so much a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) phenomenon, but a sense of concern that it will be a detail from the unusual sources that might provide better insight into how we can address the challenges we face.

It’s about filtering and exposure at the same time. I have found no solution. Read less, miss more. Read more, absorb less. What that sweet spot is still eluding me and might always. Simply asking this question is that reminder that we’re all struggling to find the right information, learn the right piece, get the right balance in our work. Maybe my question for knowledge is simply that totem to point this out to me.

Keep well and keep learning, - Cameron

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash