I don’t think our brains don’t hold knowledge very well. They are clearly amazing at reading and understanding information, doing all sorts of things that put our most powerful computers to shame. But reliably storing it so we can re-access later? Mine feels on-par with a spaghetti strainer.
We have all personally proven this fact from years of cramming for college exams. The brain operates on a use-it-or-lose-it basis: either apply knowledge immediately or repeatedly drill it into your head, otherwise it’s gone. The human forehead should feature a sticker proclaiming:
"WARNING: KNOWLEDGE IS KNOWN TO FADE FROM THE HUMAN BRAIN AT AN ALARMING RATE. STORE IT THERE AT YOUR OWN RISK."
We’ve all experienced or witnessed the following in our business lives:
- Answers to questions that are fuzzy
- Points not backed up with facts
- Smart people appearing inept, disorganized
- Time wasted re-researching and re-reading
If someone rifled through all the books we’ve read over the years and started firing questions, I know I would not fare well. Even if they stuck to things I highlighted or noted as “super important.”
Here at Pandexio, we like to have fun with this one. We have people crack open their file manager, then we point at files and ask questions like “what did you learn out of this one?” They don’t remember a darn thing.
We learned the solution long ago, probably in elementary school: actively read, take notes, create summaries and outlines. So why don’t we do it? Because the options suck:
Option 1: paper
- Print, highlight and add sticky notes
- Consolidate to index cards, synthesize on a yellow pad
While it works, it's offline, inaccessible, non-linked, non-shareable, non-green and non-mobile.
Option 2: computer
- A few of the options we have heard:
- Copy and paste into a Word document
- Email to self with the source document as an attachment and notes in the email body
- Same as email to self only using Evernote (or using hyperlinks in one large Evernote note)
These are all hacks, workarounds. The knowledge gets disconnected from the content and there are too many apps and steps involved in the process. None of these systems were design for capturing and organizing knowledge as one reads and learns.
Our ability to read and understand knowledge vastly exceeds our ability to store and re-access it. That gap is widening. As the information load rises, we must absorb new knowledge faster than ever. If we are to be organized, competent and credible, it is imperative that we figure out ways of capturing our knowledge in our computers that is convenient, connected and integrated into our workflow.
What do you think?
Is there a better system?