See all Insights

Three Necessary Disciplines: Be a Human Synthesizer

Last Thursday, everyone at Newfangled met for our annual winter retreat. Our program included presentations from Mike, Mark, and me dealing with the direction our engineering department is headed with our CMS, our marketing and new business practices, and how technology is shaping our company. My presentation focused on what I believe are three necessary disciplines to adopt in order to ensure success in our industry. I will try to recreate my presentation and post it in full sometime this week, but until then, I wanted to share a post for each discipline. The first I call “Be a Human Synthesizer.”

I got this idea from Alice Rawsthorne and discussed it a bit in a post entitled the 21st Century Skillset. She had written an article by that name that really caught my attention in which she reviewed some areas in which technological change has rendered some skills obsolete and introduced new ones. My read on it is this:

We are the internet’s editors, which means that as we encounter various bits of information, we personally have to organize, prioritize, and contextualize them to whatever query we began with. Because there is so much information available instantly, it’s up to us to make sense of it all as we go. This is exactly the kind of behavior that we have to be comfortable with in our company, especially for the project management staff. You’re being assaulted with information all day long, from various sources.

A coworker recently said to me, “I just can’t seem to keep up. I feel like I’m falling behind technologically.” I can completely relate to that. It seems like every day that I run across some new idea and discover that it’s not really that new- it’s been discussed, blogged, shown in videos, etc. all over the internet, and I can start to trace the development of it over various sources as I try to catch up. Sometimes it’s totally overwhelming. The other day, I realized just how much my own habits had changed in the past year or so in terms of the amount of information I take in regularly. Here’s a snippet from my Google Reader trends (most of my exposure to new info is through Google Reader):

In case you can’t read it, it says:
From your 158 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 6,502 items, starred 337 items, shared 268 items, and emailed 10 items.

That’s a ton of information. Maybe even too much. But then I wonder, if I wasn’t doing this, how would I keep up? I’d have to look at way more sources and spend even more time in order to take in the equivalent amount. And then maybe I would fall behind. I guess the point is that, especially in our industry, information is moving at a more rapid pace than before. Rather than react to it and declare it to be yet another evidence of dystopia, I’m trying to get on board for my own sake and that of our company. Without this skill, I’m not sure we’d make it.

Related Posts