I recently posted a piece titled: Are Our Best Days Behind Us? on LinkedIn. In this follow-up, I provide an outline of things that I believe we each must do to ensure those best days are not in-fact behind us. I refer to them as “Do Mores” to indicate that that we need to DO MORE of each of the things on my list below. The subject, necessarily, covers a lot of ground. So, this essay, given the forum, is an overview rather than a detailed treatment of the subject.
That said, my list includes:
- DO MORE: Be critical consumers of information because our decisions are only as good as the inputs we use to make them. So, making good decisions requires that we generally (and who can’t do better) improve the way we consume and utilize data/information. As background I reference the DIKW (data, information, knowledge, wisdom) hierarchy. In a very simplified explanation of DIKW, one collects data, puts it into context, critically evaluates it and uses the results to make good decisions. How well one works their way through this DIKW process of transitioning from raw data to usable wisdom affects the quality of one’s decisions. Learning to be good at this process is therefore essential to good decision-making. At the most fundamental level, there are two things that can substantially improve your chances of being critical consumers of information.
- Becoming better educated consumers of information. Much of the output of the DIKW process taken from various sources (and it is available to us at various stages of processing) to us is of questionable quality. Since the inputs (at whatever stage of DIKW you acquire them) and subsequent processing through the DIKW process is potentially compromised, we must do a better job of evaluating it (throughout the DIKW process, whether we do it ourselves or outsource to “experts”) before we use it to make critical decisions. This requires skill, experience and a willingness to spend the time evaluating the quality of the data, information, knowledge that we consume to ensure that it meets high quality standards.
- Alternatively, we can find trusted sources of good DIKW output. To do this, we must therefore find sources that we can count on to provide quality product. And, if we do this well, the time and energy that we, personally, put into curating data goes down and the resulting output at the end of DIKW gets better. There is a whole science associated decision-making and the processing of inputs is just one aspect of making good/timely decisions. I have touched on to aspects of it, the critical evaluation of inputs and the process that you use to process through to a good decision. There is plenty written on this subject, but two books I would recommend are:
- Thinking Fast and Slowby Daniel Kahnaman; and
- How not to be Wrongby Jordan Ellenberg.
- DO MORE: Do our best, not just say we are.
- Reach just a little bit further. Surprise people (including yourself) by doing that little something extra that can really make a difference.
- That said, doing ones best doesn’t always mean working harder. It more often than not means working smarter. I know this is a cliché but, at the margin (when you are really working as hard as you can), working harder is all too often counterproductive, i.e., taking the time to plan your next steps and working less hard and less long makes much better sense that just continuing to put in effort and not taking the time to think things though. Finesse is often much more effective than brute force.
- DO MORE: Develop leaders who can lead and have a strong sense of civic responsibility. To continue our success as a nation we must have equally talented business and public service leaders. Leaders must have the ability to create and communicate a vision, develop a plan to implement the vision, and lead their team to the successful execution of the plan. And, the idea of transitioning between business and the public sector (and vice versa) has got to STOP being seen as an opportunity for wealth creation and aggrandizement, it should be part of one’s public duty and focused on the common good. This will take some doing given current norms and practices, but I believe that it is essential to a well-rounded, expansive and most of all inclusive success.
- DO A LOT MORE: Hold our elected officials accountable. That means:
- Keeping track of what our elected officials are doing. This is currently difficult, but it shouldn’t be. We have tools that would make nonpartisan dashboards easy to implement. These tools would not only make it easy to figure out whether or not our representatives are doing their jobs, but also whether they are doing the job we want them to do. Both of these perspectives are important. I can respect a representative who is doing a good job, even if I am not in agreement with them on all of their positions. I might even vote for them, if the alternative is someone who is like to do a bad job even if I agree with their positions. We can’t continue to think Congress is doing a horrible job, but uniformly believe that our representative is doing a good job—that just impossible and has to stop. We need to critically evaluate the jobs that our elected officials are doing and kick out the ones that are doing it.
- Providing feedback. As with keeping track of our elected officials, there is technology that should make it easy for us to provide input and feedback to them. Let’s get it in place and take the time to provide timely and thoughtful input/feedback.
- Voting is a responsibility that we each have. The United States is not a democracy (at least not a direct democracy) it is a republic. It was designed that way—read The Federalist Papersthey provide great insight into the rational for this. And, to keep our republic healthy, we need to vote. That requires that we are well enough informed to make good decisions and that we take the time to vote thoughtfully. Our representatives in government are only as good as we demand they be and the way we demand quality is to vote for the good ones and kick the bad ones out.
- Getting involved. This is more than providing feedback and input to our leaders. We need to have more involvement. Sometime in everyone’s career, they should put their time in and make a real contribution. This means real commitment and the time to do it right. Good public policy needs to recognize all points of view
- DO AS MUCH AS WE POSSIBLY CAN MORE: Make everyone part of the program. This means making sure that we are sufficiently educated (as a country) to be able to do the things I have listed here. In order of both precedence and importance, this should rightly be at the front of the list, because:
- While the skills necessary to make good decisions have a component of horse sense, it is increasingly difficult to make good decisions without both quantitative analysis and many of the components of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and as such
- It is unlikely that we will be capable of achieving the goals and objective set out above if we are not inclusive in our participation.
I will talk about this more in my next post.
This list covers a lot of ground. It is most certainly an outline (not even a vision) and not a plan. But, it does provide my views as to what we need to do to remain the leader in an increasingly competitive world.
I welcome your feedback as I plan on doing several iterations and feedback will improve the quality of my work.
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