Staying On Top While Avoiding Information Overload

We live in a world of accelerating change. Ray Kurzweil, the respected futurist, predicts that by 2045, we’ll experience a 1,000,000,000-fold increase in what he calls “human-machine knowledge” relative to 2010. That’s hard to conceptualize but looked at another way, the amount of information we’re dealing with today represents barely 0.0000001% of what we’ll have to handle in that future. What a quaint, simple world we inhabit today!

Even so, I’m often asked, “Dave, what’s your secret to keeping up in market segments changing as fast as social media and mobile technology?” Actually, isn’t this a challenge in virtually every industry, given the exponential increase in the world’s rate of change?

I use a combination of three tools and strategies:

  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Audiobooks and audio podcasts
  • An RSS dashboard

Together, these strategies allow me and will allow you to accelerate your learning by leveraging many brains, using free time you didn’t realize you had.

First, join and participate in a few relevant LinkedIn groups. When you join a LinkedIn group, you can ask or answer questions of others. Depending on the types of groups you join, these people will be experts in your industry (in my case, social media), professionals in your job function (sales, marketing, human resources, etc.), or members of your target customer base. Have you heard the expression that “none of us is as smart as all of us?” By following and occasionally participating in these discussions, you can learn not just from your own experience, but also from the experience of thousands of others.

For the record, my favorite LinkedIn groups include:

  • Social Media Today
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Professional Speakers and Seminar Leaders

To find LinkedIn groups valuable to you, sign in to your account, and then “Search Groups.”

Next, I use my intellectual free time to learn by listening. Who has intellectual free time, you say? All of us… when driving a car, mowing the lawn, running your favorite route, etc. Your body is busy but your mind is available. You can’t read a book or watch a video but you can listen to an audiobook or podcast.

Audible.com (an Amazon company) has more than 100,000 audiobooks for your smartphone or tablet. Some of my favorite books lately include:

  • Team of Rivals (Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet)
  • The 4-Hour Work Week (how to run a business without being in the critical path of your business processes)
  • Brain Rules (what we’ve learned from neuroscience)
  • The Tyranny of Email (the title needs no explanation but will get you thinking…)

And Apple, Google, and Microsoft have literally millions of podcasts to learn about anything and everything. My favorites include:

  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (sorry, not about the porn industry)
  • Science Friday (Ira Flatow rocks)
  • NPR Planet Money (economics like you never had in school)
  • Cellar Dweller’s Home Winemaking (a shameless plug: 70 episodes a friend and I recorded on TalkShoe.com about making wine in your basement; good, clean fun)

And finally, I use an RSS dashboard to track my favorite blogs, scanning the headlines and reading only the content that is most relevant to what I do professionally (or for that matter, personally).

RSS stands for really simple syndication, but should be named really simple subscription.  It’s the technology that plays a key role in delivering social media and social networking content to literally billions of participants.

Ignoring the technical details, an RSS dashboard brings blog and other social content, and often traditional media, automatically to you. I used the iGoogle dashboard for years but Google killed it on 11/1/2013, so now I use www.ighome.com, a very similar interface. I like its text orientation, although some people prefer something more visual like Pulse (part of LinkedIn) or Flipboard. One of the three will definitely work for you.

Every week, if not every day, I discover some valuable, new RSS content. Just click the orange RSS button and you’ll be subscribed. One of my recent favorites is the “I, Cringley” blog by Robert X. Cringley. Other favorite blogs include:

  • Mashable (technology news)
  • TechCrunch (more technology news)
  • The Church of the Customer blog (customer service stories)
  • The Gibsonia Gazette (ideas for business executives by Vistage Chair Dick Singer)

There you have it – three basic strategies for keeping on top of a world of accelerating change.

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