How to Avoid Information Pinballing
The speed and volume of information in the modern age can make us feel like our heads may physically blow clean off our necks.
In the world of marketing communications and ebusiness, both client-side and agency colleagues I’ve spoken share the same sentiment: it’s extremely difficult to effectively utilize the small bucket of time they have every week to read and synthesize information.
Metalife, a futurist/cultural insights agency, calls this struggle information pin-balling. In short, human minds are not programmed to handle the volume and interactivity of modern information. As a result, most of us bounce from content to content, barely absorbing the surface level information and over-relying on a cloud of information to supplement our inability to store and recall facts.
After witnessing and experiencing this phenomenon myself, I’ve isolated a few problems and some simple solutions that I believe help our minds recall and absorb information.
Four things you do that exasperates information pin-balling:
Do you read a whitepaper while answering emails and listening to music? If so, comprehension levels are probably going to be low. There are lots of good studies out there that establish that humans are very poor at multi-tasking.
2. Poor (or lack of) archiving system.
What do you do after you stumble into a great financial services campaign from Germany? If you don’t have a system to log articles, you are not going to be able to action insights and best practices when the time comes to use it.
3. Lack of rigorous evaluation
The democratization of information has led to an explosion of agencies and experts. There are now more people than ever tasked with analyzing information and making strategic decisions. Unfortunately; due to lack of time, skill and/or will, there seems to be a lack of critical evaluation taking place.
Even if you didn’t major in statistics and it’s been a while since your last research methods class, you ought to be capable of assessing methodology, assumptions, limitations and similarities at a high level.
4. Quantity over Quality
Rather than deeply evaluating one sub-topic of a larger theme, many of us seem to get a thrill out of exploring 100 different topics at a surface level.
- Find a quiet space, turn off all other applications and take notes while you read.
- Develop a knowledge bank database with a reliable tagging system and a search function that indexes tags and file text contents (Noise uses Zotero, an open source citation management application developed by George Mason University).
- Rather than trying to read 1,000 articles on 1,000 different topics, choose one topic per week or even month and find as many reliable sources as possible.
- Wherever possible, try to find on the root sources of information (press release, research study) rather than the chatter and commentary that are simply derivatives of that core information.
- Document each article’s argument, sources, methodology, findings, etc while you read.
- Compare and contrast notes for articles that address the same topic for common threads than you can turn into actionable insights down the road.
- Customer Relations
- Digital Media
- digital strategy
- digital media marketing
- middle east
- Nadine Abou-Elias
- Nadine Najla
- public relations
- Social media
- social media marketing
- social marketing
The Wave of Influence
It started simply. The most basic example is Facebook, which surfaces the most relevant content and information from friends and contacts. Not too long ago, Twitter revamped its Discovery tab and ’Who to Follow’ recommendations in an attempt to serve more relevant stories and other links on its platform.
Lots of commerce sites include a social feature, letting shoppers know what friends have purchased or recommended. Other commerce sites have enlisted the help of celebrities and industry influencers to curate or even create collections of goods and promote them accordingly, a la Rachel Zoe on Piperlime, or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on StyleMint.
Some applications and products even go a step past recommendation, straight to authoritative delivery. For example, Soundrop is an application from SoundCloud that uses Spotify, allowing users to build and play social playlists. And for people (like me) who spend a solid portion of the day listening to music while working, lists of well-curated music are an easy way to get an hours-long soundtrack. This means that by listening to a socially curated list, you might not even know what you’re listening to — just where you’re listening to it. It’s sort of like listening to a movie soundtrack. While soundtracks are curated by a professional, these playlists are curated by friends and connections you trust. They work so well, that occasionally when asked, “What music are you listening to?” the answer is now, “Where are you listening to music?”
The same applies to shopping and purchasing decisions. Birchbox will send you a monthly shipment of beauty product samples. Stitchfix sends clothes tailored to your style. Wittlebee sends clothes tailored to your toddler’s style. If there were a service that sent my clothing recommendations culled from my best friends’ Svpply and Pinterest feeds, I’d probably take it!
Social recommendations are becoming an increasingly important way of doing business. So much so, that successful companies, products, and apps are iterating on the idea, introducing consumers and audiences into an environment where they are guided by these recommendations — often without realizing it. It goes right past understanding your audience, straight to serving them in the most personalized way possible.
How to Really Communicate in a Digital World
Communication is easy when everyone is constantly connected, and that’s how we live in today’s digital world. But, are we really communicating? With all the different media available, deciding how to communicate is just as important as what we say.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is not enough. It’s the Digital Days, so we must decide on HOW to communicate.
Consider the five levels of communication:
Level 1: Message into the Ether
Snail mail and email have a few things in common: They can be of any length, and they are not conversational. Emails and letters are sent out, and then new messages are composed and returned. Sometimes it takes days or weeks before a response arrives. Since emails and letters are not conversational (they lump all points together rather than go point, counterpoint, point, etc…), there is a HIGH LEVEL of misunderstanding with this medium of communication. As many of us know, little issues can escalate over email.
Level 2: Back-and-Forth Messaging
Whether it is via instant message or text, the next level of communication is conversational but still conducted remotely. As points go back and forth, there is a more casual exchange that is also more direct. Misunderstandings are less likely because each message is quick and each participant can detect if they were misunderstood by the reply. However, the bite-size quality of this form of messaging means it’s not well-suited to discussing complex matters.
Level 3: A Verbal Dialog
In a verbal exchange, participants get to voice their opinions and relay a whole new level of data through their inflection. Inflection reveals elements like frustration, annoyance, and stress that are harder to detect in written communication. One major drawback is that verbal discussions often require scheduling. But, as my colleagues can attest, when a customer is upset I believe it is best to just pick up the phone and discuss it!
Level 4: The In-Person Spontaneous Discussion
When something important comes up, you might decide to just drop by a colleague’s desk and start talking. Such spontaneous discussions are often more effective than messages and phone conversations. The benefits of visually seeing each other will add a whole new level of mutual understanding to the discussion. Of course, there are numerous detriments to this level of communication. The fact that others are likely in the vicinity makes it less intimate, and spontaneity doesn’t work for everyone.
Level 5: The In-Person Scheduled Discussion
Planning an in-person discussion allows both participants to think about the topic in advance. The communication that ensues is the most dynamic possible. Inflection and visual cues allow you to gather non-verbal intelligence to ensure clarity. Privacy ensures comfort. Of course, a scheduled discussion doesn’t necessarily mean that it is formal. I will often plan an important conversation to address a concern over breakfast or lunch. What makes this level of communication so sacred is the mutually agreed upon time set aside for direct discussion.
After understanding the five levels of communication, you can start to decide which level is most appropriate for particular situations. With so many options, it can be easy to choose the path of least resistance rather than focusing on your objective and which level of communication will help you achieve it.
We get in trouble when we chose to communicate the easy way versus the right way. As our channels for communication expand, we must endeavor to be more thoughtful about how and when we communicate. In my research of admired leaders, I have found that communication judgment is an increasingly important factor of success. Knowing what can be done with “Level 2” communication versus what must be done “Level 5” is a sign of sound leadership instinct.