Tell me something I don’t already know

This emoji couldn’t be better timed.

This is the truth. We have been inundated with advices from all fronts, whether at work or play — life hacks, best practices, the top 10 things to do while traveling on a shoestring budget.These are all great stuff, but there just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to consume all these wonderful information and effectively apply them to our lives.

Hello everyone, my name is Lynn and I am a “subscriboholic”.

I have a confession. I am one of those people who subscribes to 15,236,210,074 different e-newsletters, sent to my inbox(es) daily and which 80% of them goes straight to thrash if the summary panel doesn’t catch my interest. The rest of the 20% are further skimmed through, leaving me with probably 5–7 articles that I will read for the day.

This will probably cause a dent in my marketing karma for lowering the clickthrough rates, but I’ll get to that shortly.

Out of these, perhaps 1 will make the final cut to my ever-growing list of EverNote references and shared via my social media channels. The truth is, I hardly go back to these references again during my work, because most times, these great tips need to be rejigged and applied in a formalised process in my organisation before it can mature from theory to practice.

Now you might ask, why don’t I just keep a couple of trusty sources (i.e. Content Marketing Institute, The Content Standard, etc) for reference and just unsubscribe from the rest?

Well, I won’t because I do get a wider spectrum of opinions through my subscriptions and Google Alerts, which then gives me more information to filter through my thought processes, and eventually finding those gems of relevance within them.

Even if this means I have to read multiple versions of the same things, over and over again, written in a different way, language or presented in a different format. The more I push through this filtration process, the better my chances of finding something that I can apply in future. Makes sense?

This then brings me to the next point — how do I learn to sieve out good information?

Much ado about something?

Back in my university days, I was working at a library as a reference librarian and doubling up as a ‘guest lecturer’ to students on the importance of information research. Students were introduced to basic search techniques for Google, the library’s digital catalogue and how to conduct advanced information searches using algorithms (like the use of booleans).

Sounds simple enough, but as we get more accustomed to having information or content served to us, instead of us searching for it, our instincts to sniff out information and being resourceful are getting duller by the day. The essential question here is, how do you get something out of nothing?

How do you sieve out “good information” if you don’t know what defines “good information” in the first place?
Common confusion

Know your weaknesses, understand your strengths

One of the best ways I learned to be able to sieve out relevant information for my own work is to know where my failings are. Sounds harsh, but through constant review and reflection, it helps us map out the areas that need to be improved upon quickly.

We are often our own worst critics, so work that to your advantage and use your weaknesses as a key marker to flag relevant information for references and learning.

Storytelling at the core

While some may favor best practices in a formalised case study format, I prefer anecdotal sharing of experiences from both industry speakers, clients or agencies. I am guilty of not reading through every single line of a white paper or industry report filled with data and findings, even if I know that there are relevant data points in there for me. Because, I know someone else might have seen the same report, resonated with the findings and is sharing the same theories and practices in context to their own experiences. To me, storytelling it and reading these experiences in first-person perspective works a lot better for my personal knowledge retention

Share and retain knowledge

Finally, after identifying my relevance markers (point 1), finding the right type of content presentation that works best for my own consumption (point 2), I curate these final pieces and share them through my social media accounts, with my colleagues, friends or anybody else who may be interested.

Why? Because repeating it or sharing knowledge helps you retain information much more effectively. When we read or listen, especially for topics we live and breathe day in and out, the motions become mechanised and we become less aware and willing to retain these new pieces of information.

However, when you are relating these to someone new, you become the source and when questioned, you will review and remember the mistakes or points you’ve made that your audience has doubts about. (More about learning retention here.) The more you do this, the brains are actively registering both the questions and answers and eventually, that data point or statement will become easier to recall.

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

Brilliance of a spud

You may be more familiar with the quote from Steve Jobs, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. And that comes with practice — practice in drawing connections and relevance to what you do, to what you learn and what others are doing. This is exactly why millions of articles are still being churned out on a daily basis on similar topics, because we are all learning from each other, improving upon each other’s practices and trying to formulate better, more effectiveways of working. So, please continue to tell me something I don’t (already) know.