This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Good questions tame the overload fairy

FirehoseAnother day, another new-book reference in my blog.  This time, it is an American Management Association article on Why You Need to Drink from the Fire Hose.  It's a brief interview with Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone, coauthors of the new book Drinking from the Fire Hose: Making Smarter Decisions Without Drowning in Information.

The key to their story seems to be asking good questions, rather than allowing yourself to be overwhelmed with the (possible) flood of information coming to you.  Here are their questions, in brief:

  1. What is the essential question?
  2. Where is your customer’s North Star?
  3. Should you believe the squiggly line?
  4. What surprised you?
  5. What does the lighthouse reveal?
  6. Who are your swing voters?
  7. What? So what? Now what? Expose insights.

The gist of these questions is that "information overload" is the wrong statement of the problem.  Sure, there is a lot of stuff out there.  But if you know what you are looking for - or why you are looking - it is a lot easier to hone in on the right things.

Ask yourself - and your colleagues - some good questions, rather than worry about getting buried in information.  Somehow I tie this line of thinking into my own personal effectiveness ideas.  It's so easy to get lost in the "stuff" without really knowing why I am there.  I think this is one reason so many people get lost in "dealing with email" without ever getting things done. Here are a few more questions that come to mind as I ponder this blog.

  • How is this (activity, information, meeting, etc.) going to help me answer the question?  (Reflecting #1 above.)
  • If I answer the question, what then?
  • Do I need to do this right now?
  • What would be surprising to learn in this context?
  • Can anyone else help me with this?
  • How can I make this work better the next time?  Should there be a next time?

Take a peak at the article for a little more detail.  Or read the book.  (And tell me how it is.)

[Photo: "Firehose" by joevans1234]

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