Seeking the truth in an information-saturated world

We live in an increasingly information-saturated, plugged-in world. Long gone are the days where an entire family gathers around the only television in the house to watch the 6 o’clock news. Between our 24-hour news cycle, constant push notifications on our phones and tablets, and the ever-growing presence of social media, information overload is, like it or not, part of our day-to-day lives. Therefore, the information we need to make important decisions can often be easy to find—or on the other side of the coin, that information might be obscured by misleading data, untrustworthy “news” sites, and sometimes, blatant disinformation campaigns run by organizations and governments with nefarious intent. As business leaders, it is important to be able to cut through the noise and have a good system in place to decide who to listen to and who to tune out.

Be cautious of Social Media

As obvious as it seems, not everything you read on Facebook can be trusted. Though the rise of independent media is a net good for the world and its access to up-to-date information, it has also encouraged some bad actors to disseminate false information—the result of which is often fake news going viral and causing widespread confusion. Though sites like Facebook are beginning to employ fact-checkers, they often cannot keep up with the volume of inaccurate stories that are shared on social media every day.

Ask Good Questions

Train yourself to be skeptical and curious of the news you read. Ask yourself questions like “Who is this author of this article? What is the outlet’s media bias? What is the tone of the article? Who stands to benefit from this article?” If you can determine that the outlet is fairly balanced in terms of its bias, and the source is credible, you can safely move forward using that information to inform your decisions.

Weigh Your Options

When using information to make decisions that impact your life and the lives of others, like the ones C-level executives make every day, you will sometimes need to use your instincts to determine the right course of action. Did a credible source predict widespread economic downturn, and you’re wondering what the best move is for your employees? Your gut instinct might tell you to panic and cut your losses, but after analyzing the data in front of you perhaps you find a use case where your business could actually thrive during a recession. Reacting to news emotionally is human, but it helps to take an analytical approach to the information at your disposal before making decisions that impact your livelihood and the livelihoods of others.

Practice Every Day

Finding, analyzing, and implementing the right kinds of information to inform decision making is a skill. In order to improve our skills, we need to practice them regularly. You’re probably already doing this in your daily life without realizing it. Say you watched the meteorologist on a credible national news program predict ten days of rain. After three days of rain, you have gathered enough evidence, both expert and anecdotal, to determine you should keep a spare umbrella in your car. The next time you go to make a decision, regardless of how small, pay attention to the steps you take to get there, and see if you can make conscious adjustments to the parts of the process that aren’t working, or are too based on emotion and not data.

The more you learn to filter, process, and utilize the information around you, the more you can use that information to your advantage. Though it can be overwhelming at times, our highly connected world has so much to offer us, if we only know where to look. It’s important to explore diverse views, that way you can make an informed, judicious decision—which applies to both everyday life and work.