In the crazy times that we exist, surely it feels like the Heavens above must have been in an overdrive while planning to lead humanity to the place we are, no I am not going to talk about the pandemic, already have shared a lot! I am referring to possibly a greater pandemic, which is perhaps more dangerous than the one that we are facing now! This is about dealing with the knowledge overload- a knowledge pandemic; if you want to look at it that way! Join me here as we take a quick look at what this is and what does it mean to us and what is that we can do to survive this challenge, collectively or individually as the case may be! So here we go!
This is not only about cribbing about the invasion of the digital screens into our lives (although they do) this is not about the grueling efforts that go into pursuing higher & specialized education, in terms of money and opportunities around, this isn’t only about how many books, research materials, manuscripts are available or not, this is simply about the maddening pace at which knowledge gets consumed, gets outdated and leaves us ever famished and wanting more and more of it, even as we are aware that there is only so much that we can achieve in the life time that we have and there is only so much that one can really apply and bring into action, irrespective of how much knowledge one holds within!
This mad race to soak in as much as knowledge on can, irrespective of how much of that is validated or relevant has led to chaos and ambiguity more than what natural confusion would have provided! Ever heard about, “All the experts who came together to agree that nothing can be done” well that’s a classic case of knowledge overload! What knowledge overload does is, that it begins to make you pace up against yourself and that by the very definition of it is a very self-defeating approach! But why does this happen in the first place, why do people fall into this senseless trap of wanting to behold all and know all kind of stuff (knowing very well that, it doesn’t work that way!) The reason for this, is the contextual framing that we have allowed to seep in, across societies wherein knowledge has become a tool to achieve something further and not a destination in itself! Let me explain!
If you observe around, what do you see, parents, teachers and almost everyone who has this ability to give free advise to a teen, is going to just say one thing, “study this, go to that university, get that degree” so on and so forth- not because that will enrich the individual or make that person wiser, but because that assures well off life and a sustained source of income- nothing wrong with it – sure enough, well that’s what is needed, what do we do with knowledge if money doesn’t come in- plain, simple, effective, but the big point missed out here is that- no one asked you not to get wiser even as you make your money! This is where the knowledge overload problem begins and how does this manifest? Well, read on!
Have you ever dealt with that boss of your’s who always said just do it this way- and don’t ask me why? or that boss who came to you rushing ten minutes before the presentation and asking you to change 15 slides immediately? Did you ever come across a person who knew everything and was sought after by everyone for some listening but not for any action? I am sure you would have come across multiple such instances wherein people have been glued to the pivot of the knowledge that they hold and are in process of applying- few of them seem to be in control of it (like the judges, the doctors, the law enforcement people- most of the times!) and at times, you will come across people who seem to be just struggling to cope up with the dynamism of the knowledge that they hold, every next day that challenge to update just seems to get insurmountable for them. So why do people react to knowledge in completely two different ways- one while being in supreme control and at other times being completely run over by it?
They do so because in one case they are able to tame knowledge and shape it to the way they want to action through it and in the second case, knowledge is nothing but a fast moving rapid and it will knock you over your feet, if you don’t know where you are putting your feet next! So what’s the right way to engage with knowledge?
The real essence of engaging with knowledge is about soaking it only until it enables and empower you to apply it to create some meaningful value for you or for others! Anything done half way through that in a rush or anything done long after you have soaked yourself beyond repair- is all counterproductive- because knowledge too, like everything else is sensitive to time and context! Let me explain!
Consider you are a new doctor, and heading to the first surgery in the ER, what’s your frame of mind? are you trying to yet mug up, Grey’s Anatomy- page 456 or are you planing to go ahead with what is presented in front of you and pursue your line of treatment based on what you see in front of you? You don’t open up a person and say, “hey, I read it in the book, this pieces, is not supposed to be here, can we move it by a few inches?” This is what the context and time element of knowledge is all about! In that contextual setting of the ER, it would have really not mattered how much of medical know how you have or not, as long as you were able to understand what is in front of you and as long as you are able to provide the recourse as science would require you too! This is real essence of working with knowledge, no matter what field you pursue, unless you develop this approach of being pragmatic, in the now and being able to what it is that you are dealing with, you may have all the gold medals in the world, but you will get drowned by the same overload of knowledge that keeps moving around within your mind like a lost ghost! So what’s the takeaway?
Simple and to the point, Knowledge works only as long as you work upon it and you don’t get worked up because of it! Understanding, updating and staying relevant is one thing and being able to think on your feet in the now and deliver to a perplexing problem in front of you applying the principle of the knowledge that you hold is the real essence of being able to manage and overcome knowledge overload! Once you are able to this, rest assured scaling up your learnings and applying them as fluidly as you want to are all but a part of simple design. Too much of anything and everything is not helpful, simply because it creates an imbalance and when it comes to knowledge, an imbalance leads to unwanted eccentricity- individually it looks funny- but when that gets extrapolated to a society as whole- you end up heaving polarized and radicalized views which don’t go to help anyone on anything, no matter how knowledgeable people are or how wise the society is! Balance- dynamic balance is the key to tame knowledge- soaking in it, just enough to create and share value and not getting drowned into it to create more chaos or ambiguity!
I leave you here, hoping that you are always as soaked up in knowledge only as much is relevant to what you do and you are always able to work upon the knowledge that you behold and never get run over by it!
Ciao for now, will be back with another one! Until then, stay wise, and keep learning and keep sharing!