In the age of the internet, with so much information at your fingertips, you would think that people would be smarter. In some cases they are, but it seems that in most cases the majority of people are moving in the other direction.
People seem to take content on the internet as totally factual and to be the absolute truth, but this is often not the case. There is a great deal of content that is motivated by disruption, deceit, political agendas, targeted messaging, sales initiatives, and simple errors. Yet, it is often seen as the truth and gospel.
Is it that people are too lazy to research and consider viewing a topic through many lenses to come up with their own opinion based upon research and study? Is it because people do not actually know how to conduct personal research? Or, are they simply fooled because of the form, presentation, and structure of the false content?
It is a difficult question to get an answer too. It may be for all of these reasons, and much more.
Asking questions is essential to understanding anything. Never accept anything at face value. Probe, inquire, investigate and uncover the truth. The truth is often a moving target as well, so you need to be an agile thinker and remain open to new ideas and concepts. The pursuit of knowledge is a journey, not a destination.
During my graduate studies, one professor shared their theory for a great paper, it needed to answer three questions. 1./ ‘What? What is it all about?’, 2./ “So what? Why is it important?’, and 3./ ‘What is next?’. Whenever you read something online or in the press, always ask yourself these three questions so you can decide if the content is even worthy of your interest and offers a glimmer of light on the current reality of truth.
It is also vital to ask yourself if what you are reading is the truth? Is there a hidden agenda in the messaging? If you accept the content as factual, then always be prepared to throw it away later if a new and better truth rises up.
This week I attended a webcast that looked interesting. About half way through the 60 minute session, I realized that the content was a lure to build future mailing lists. The content was also a poorly designed sales pitch. I drop off before it ended. A very disappointing experience from a respected manufacturer who tied up with a global publisher. I fear now that I will be bombarded with sales emails as a result of consenting to attend this so called educational webcast.
The most powerful questions that you can asked are: Why? and, Why Not?
When you want to learn something new, it takes an effort. You must invest some time and hard work to learn. As people age they seem to stop learning, or at least slow the process down and accept the status quo. They assume that what they do, and what they know, is all perfectly correct. But this is fundamentally wrong and once we cease the pursuit of knowledge, we fail to move forward. We fail to learn.
Often learning demands the complete and total destruction of old knowledge in order to make room for, and the creation of, new knowledge. At other times, it is an augmentation process to build upon what we already know. Bad habits and errors can silently and slowly crept into your mind and alter past knowledge and colour experience and warp your current reality. So, corrections and tweaks to knowledge are required.
As an example, I own a big motorhome as is shown at the top of this article. It weights in at about 30,000 lbs / 13,600 kg and is 37′ 4″ / 11.4 m in length. So, driving this monster and navigating the roadways is challenging. The winds play havoc with you as you fight to stay within the boundaries of the lane. So, I decided that I needed training to learn how to drive it better; to drive it safer; for me and those that I share the roads with when I am behind the wheel.
It still astonishes me that I wrote a cheque and they just handed me the keys. I got in it and drove it away with no training as to how to drive it whatsoever. Incredible.
After 5 years of RV fun, I decided to take a respected college-level program that was based upon formal classroom education, lots of self-learning and reading, and practical hands-on roadway work in a big truck.
Yes, I went to truck driver school. I decided to pursue ‘Class-D’ and ‘Class-F’ commercial licences as well as a Z-endorsement for air brakes. No, I never expect to be a professional driver, but I did want to get education to the same high professional standards.
The first thing that the instructor did was to sit me behind the wheel of gigantic truck and have me drive an actual road examination out in the local mid-day traffic, albeit a simulation of the government exams. I was sweating and nervous. But, after driving for over 30 years, without any accidents, I was confident that I would do okay.
Boy, was I ever wrong. Much to my shock, I scored a mere 2 out of 20 points in the simulated exam. A total and absolute failure. I was horrified. I was embarrassed.
So many bad habits had crept into my driving practices that I was worse than a first-time driver behind the wheel. So, my suspicions about the need for training proved correct.
After lots of classroom time, practical education at the vehicle, and numerous lessons on the roads, I was ready to take the commercial government tests. I wrote and passed the requisite exams for: general road safety, Class-D, Class-F, and Z-endorsement. Writing four tests at one sitting was stressful. To compound the stress levels, I then proceeded to do my road test with the examiner. So, I demonstrated and performed my vehicle walk-around for the air brakes for 30 minutes. Next, we did the road tests for 30 minutes. I was mentally exhausted, but I passed with a score of 18 out of 20. Not perfect, but a far lot better compared to 2 out of 20 when I took the first evaluation test. I was delighted.
These days, I try hard to practice and apply everything that I learned at the college. If you do not use knowledge, then you lose knowledge.
This driving example all started with me questioning my own knowledge, skills, understandings, beliefs, and truths. The learning process demands that I confirm my knowledge with validation from expects who could fairly judge my thinking and actions against a prescribed standard. I needed an objective observer to review my driving. This objective observer was the course instructor and he offered a trusted critique and provide suggestions aimed at improvement. Afterwards, I had to apply what I had learned and put it all into practice.
Since mine are all commercial licenses, I must have medical check-ups and write reinforcement exams every two to five years to continually validate and reconfirm the standards. Being a great driver is a never-ending learning experience.
All learning should follow a similar process. You need to question everything. You must be honest with yourself and face ideas that can be unsavory to consider. You need to deconstruct and then reconstruct your knowledge. You must ask questions with academic rigor. You must ask ‘why’ and frame the answers in terms that allow agility in your thinking. A flexible thinker is one that grows and expands their body of knowledge. You must accept conflicting knowledge with respect and share your knowledge with others. It is the continued discourse that drives learning.
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.