by Raymond Turner

InformationOverloadHave you ever found yourself getting close to a stoplight, looking at the lanes of traffic stopped in front of you, and making a split second decision to change (or stay) in your lane based on the types of vehicles that were likely to take off the fastest? 18 wheeler? Dump truck? Older vehicle? Definitely move to the next lane! Sports car? Newer vehicle? There’s some horsepower revving there, so that lane will definitely move faster, right?

Or what about this scenario: you’re browsing a social media site or researching for something specific on the internet, and you come across a video with a captivating title. Then, your eyes immediately move to the lower corner of the video where a magical box shows you how long the video is…1-2 minutes? Absolutely. No problem. 5 minutes? Well, how many views does it have? That’s pushing it, but 5 minutes is not TOO bad. 7-10 minutes? You bookmark it on your browser, or keep a mental note of it “just in case” you decide to come back to it when you have more time. Or…you decide to at least watch 30 seconds to a minute of it just to get the “gist.”

The scenarios above are humorous in some ways, but they both describe a very real, modern dilemma: our lack of patience, need for speed, and moreso, a window into how we assimilate and process the barrage of information pummeling us on a daily (even hourly) basis.

One of the ways our contemporary psyche has chosen to process this sticky bubble gum for the brain has been described by some psychologists as “gisting.” Gisting is defined as The act of learning enough about a subject to be dangerous in conversation or writing. Those who are adept at gisting can participate in conversations with subject experts without getting lost along the way. Anyone who prides themselves on knowing a little about a lot, knowing enough to be dangerous, or being considered a quick study is probably good at gisting.”

This is different from “speed reading”, or the famous Cliffs Notes that should be given credit for sustaining many weary souls through a late night cram session for college English Lit. While gisting can make us more well-rounded, in a modern sense, it can imbue a sense of empowerment to speak out on subjects where the full story has not been brought to light. I’ve painfully learned my lesson after sharing an article, only to find out that it was nothing more than either a publication by a satirical news organization (The Onion), or some story recirculated from 20 years ago, proven false by Snopes.com. Or, speaking out on an issue with only half-of-a-half of the truth as I knew it.

But even in a deeper sense, where it matters in our business relationships, clientele, personal relationships, skill sets, tough societal issues, controversies, etc. I am reminded that gisting can only take me so far. Our families, friends, clients, associates…our society, aren’t craving for more talented, savvy people; the need is for people of depth. Icebergs. Individuals who are more than an “inch deep and a mile wide.”

A great mentor, Glenn Brooke, proposes a simple mental matrix to help filter some of the sand out of the tidal wave of information and move beyond gisting into slightly deeper waters:

  • Be aware that information bias exists and affects the information you have to work with.
  • When someone presents you with an update (or an article, video, etc), ask thoughtful questions to see if you have the whole story.
  • Know that we will never have perfect info, but check yourself before making snap decisions by asking, “Is there another perspective I need to consider?”
  • Cross-check the MOST important facts before acting on/ sharing them.

Hopefully these thoughts will move you and I out into deeper waters, where there will be more to us than just what others see on the surface. I believe you’ve gotten the gist of it!

creative blockRaymond Turner is our Project Manager Mogul. Before coming to Newton, he was a producer, director and professional drummer. Raymond and his wife Maria have two children. In his free time, Raymond is big into sports (wii sports that is), reading, drawing, composing or drumming.

Written by Raymond Turner