Learning, Storing, and Recalling Information

I was sitting around the house on Saturday night and had a 3 hour conversation about how we learn, store, and recall information in our brains (I must be a nerd). What irony in getting this quote this morning.
“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it - there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
The above quote appeared in my inbasket, a blog entry from the President of the company I'm consulting for (he was quoting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlett).

My point was that if you do not have a specific perspective when you learn something, that you will never be able to store that information in a manner that is useful to recall the information later. Further, without the ability to draw relations in the information you decide to store in an organized fashion in your brain – you lose creativity – you lose innovation – you lose the ability to visualize the totality – and focus on the specifics rather than the big picture.

Specifics are important in developing a perspective of clarity of the parts. But, understanding the big picture is potentially more important – to see which specifics are in ‘big bold font’ – or where the specific emphasis lies in your ‘business’ (EX// the classic Coke recipe change-up).

Continuous Improvement has nearly become a staple in Modern Information Businesses. If it’s not broke than fix it mentalities. I’m with you 100% there.

When you refer to tools below, and imply that with the increased availability and accuracy of this toolage, we will be able to strive for new levels of innovation / creativity / accuracy – I believe you may be implying that if we free our brains of the “useless facts elbowing out the useful ones” VIA toolage, we will be able to achieve more true Eureka moments. This is truly a dichotomy, whereby we must be careful that the toolage we employ doesn’t undermine the creative / innovative part of our thoughts. Such that we are not too closely tied to the specifics, or abstracted from the intent, such that we understand the purpose of what we are doing, and how that purpose fits into the greater scheme of what the business is doing.

For example, an employee performs analysis on a set of figures. The fact that the employee must repeat the same sequence of steps leads the employee toward innovation – and that employee may suggest a creative solution to this repetition (seeks to cut Noise, Confusion, Distraction). It is the repetition, noise, confusion, and distraction - with the perspective to understand the purpose of the task - that may lead the employee toward implementing a specific software tool to streamline his problem. However, in implementing this software tool the employee now stands to inherit a different set of repetitious tasks. The downside to this is that the employee is now lead in a different direction to innovate / create. They now see their problem as being: “I have to tab too many times through the user interface”.

I ask, where is the true Eureka moment here? Was it before the toolage was implemented or after? I’d suggest it was before – when they were closer to the numbers, and dealt with noise, confusion, and distraction – when they knew how the calculations were performed – when they understood how the specifics, fit in to achieve the big picture goal. The noise makes them smarter, allows them to process and store information with a specific perspective. And in doing this they draw a relation to a software app, they found Eureka.

I’ve seen too many times in too many businesses, software solutions being implemented that actually degrade the overall intelligence of the business – because they are idiot proof and repetitive. Users have a tendency to merely follow the steps, rather than truly understand why they are performing the steps. It’s not to be underestimated that knowledge is the sum of what we know, and what we can acquire, and that tools may aid us in focusing on what we can improve next – BUT - too frequently tools aid us in what we can acquire. In doing this, we lose the information we’ve stored in our brain with a specific perspective, and lose the ability to draw those relationships in our head that lead to the truly innovative leapfrog type of change you are talking about; where we stand up and shout EUREKA!!!

My question then becomes, how do we manage EUREKA moments, such that we can become more intelligent, all the while improving the efficiencies / effectiveness of our process, in employing these new information tools?

Anyway, I felt that I’d share these idea’s / opinions with you. Hope you can take it with a bit of a grain of salt mixed with a grain of philosophy! Regardless, I thought it would be nice to get some feedback. Interesting text!

Over And Out

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