How Not to Get Buried by the Information Avalanche

Kara Powell | Mar 14, 2012

If you’re like me, you’re surrounded by information - good, interesting, and seemingly important information. Even as I’m writing this blog, I’m listening to a synopsis of the Republican primary scene, having just perused today’s headlines on my online newspaper, after checking Twitter and Facebook.

Does all this information help or hurt us? The answer: Yes.

It helps us in many ways, but if we can’t sift through the rubble to find the jewels of information we need, it’s overwhelming. That’s why I greatly appreciated a recent Harvard Business Review blog about sifting through information. Here’s the heart of their advice geared for managers but relevant to any of us:

  1. Instead of trying to absorb everything, focus on a few key indicators. For short-term performance, look for leading instead of lagging indicators. Make sure that they give you a basis for taking action.
  2. Differentiate opinion from data. Remember that different people can observe the same event and interpret it based on their own (sometimes unconscious) bias or agenda.
  3. Examine trends and patterns. This means not only looking at indicators over time, but also examining their sources and how they may be changing.
  4. Periodically look at the ecosystem. Since information flows from everywhere, occasionally take the time to map out where data is coming from and what it says. This will show you if certain data sources are becoming dominant or just “noisy”; or if other key constituencies are not providing any input.
  5. Use information as a basis for dialogue. Interpreting information requires people with different filters, analytical tools, and perspectives. Take advantage of your team and other resources to sort through the information so that you’ll have a richer foundation for making decisions.

I especially like this last step of using information for dialogue. As you think about your family or your ministry, ask yourself: what article, blog or bit of information can you introduce into your next gathering or meeting that might elevate your conversation, and maybe your decisions also?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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