“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” ~ Herbert Simon
When we face a decision, we first search for information and the bigger the decision, the more information we usually seek.
The problem, however, is it takes time and energy to review each piece of information yet we live in a society where we now have access to exponentially more information than time and energy.
How can we solve this problem? In the same way that investors seek a “return on investment” I believe people should evaluate the type of “return” they’re getting on the information they collect.
Here are some steps I take to improve my “Return on Information”
- What is the potential cost for choosing the wrong option?
- The lower the cost, the less time I spend searching for and reviewing information.
- I will spend a lot more time choosing the best doctor for an operation than I will decision on what new restaurant to try.
- What is the potential reward for choosing the right option?
- Don’t spend too much time on a decision whose potential payoff is not that great.
- What outcome is most important for me? What am I willing to sacrifice in order to reach that outcome?
- The most relatable example of this is the type of cars my wife and I drive. I have a small sporty car but not much space and she has a SUV that has room for lots of stuff.
- How reliable is the source?
- I filter away unreliable sources. Junk information in means junk decisions out.
- I try to eliminate the bad or biased sources. For example, I receive flyers from real estate agents saying “now is a great time to buy a house”. I suspect they may be biased when it comes to real estate.
- Why am I still seeking information?
- Am I seeking more information to “confirm” my previously held opinion or do I genuinely need help to make an “informed” decision? If I only seek out information that agrees with my views and ignore differing opinions, I am not a better informed decision maker.
- How much time do I have to make this decision? Are these deadlines self imposed or are they from outside sources?
- If I have too much time, I tend to over-research and over-analyze even if I’ve done enough already. In these instances, my research might e a form of procrastination.
- Do I have to personally spend my time reviewing the information or can I rely on somebody else to do it for me?
- Businesses like Angie’s Lists, Yelp, or movie review sites gather information and provide you with an easy-to-understand opinion.
What questions do you ask to improve your “return on information?”
Here’s one final thought: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith
Note: This article was orginally written as a guest post at www.jemstep.com