“What you said and what I heard”

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom”

I was looking through my note books today and saw the many notes I had taken over the past one year (2021) alone. Notes on emotional intelligence, leadership, and so much more with a simple question on my mind…What have you done with all of this? How has all this made a difference in your life? I also just completed an intensive clergy and wives retreat where for four long days we were constantly being hit left right and center by information on how to become better pastors. In this retreat I had the privilege of speaking on church planting such that when the retreat was shortened by one day I was glad that I could at least rest and reflect on something I had learned.

I like a quote from Caroline Leaf in her book “Think Learn Succeed”

“We are not designed to remember everything and anything. We are designed to remember what we need to succeed.”

Information simply put can be defined as facts provided or learned about something or someone. There are three basic types of information which are:

Factual – this is information that deals with the facts. Observable and verifiable information, from the right context presented as it is.

Analytical – this is information where interpretation is based on factual information. A balancing and presentation of all the sides of the situation looking critically at the facts.

Subjective – this is information from only one point of view. Many times this is personal.

How does this all fit? In a day when we are constantly on the go, information about any and everything is all over us, this affects the way we think and remember these thoughts create our mood and influence how  feel physically. So I woke up early one morning and did something I usually do not do by reaching for my phone to check my messages first. A NO even for me, the first thing I saw was information about an overnight kidnap on the way to Zaria the previous day. This made me freeze all the plans I had to do a lot of work that day including going to Zaria and spending time to write an article for a journal. My thoughts at that stage were rough and needed fine tuning but that information got me directed out of the norm until I called someone who said he head also received that same information and that the graphics were a photo shop. I then had to rewire myself back to original plans by which time I had lost the value of the early morning freshness and energy I should have. Think about this for a moment doesn’t this also happen in our relationships? We have made enemies, reacted negatively only to find that things were not what they seemed. Haven’t we read meanings into people’s social media pages and felt it was a personal attack on us without us confirming them? This was subjective. A lot of our bias and discrimination of other tribal/ethnic groups is it not as a result of subjective information? In fact the most pitiable of it all is the attempt by some people to re-write history from a subjective point of view.

How do we get our information? I will discuss primarily two ways:

  1. What I will call Authenticated Sources – these are generally accepted based on rigorous validation procedures by an approved body. Such sources are some books (mainly text), dictionaries, glossaries, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia (Britannica), peer review Journals, library catalogue and databases. I am careful in mentioning the internet here as many do not know how to sieve information here. Mostly information “.edu” tells you that this is coming from an academic institution. I had an interesting conversation with my children who were teenagers on an issue and they argued based on what they had read from the internet, until I said google it and show me and then I began to point out how to sieve personal opinion from the one that has been verified by facts and subjected to critical analysis. So do not believe all that you read off the internet as some may be subjective.
  2. Next you have what I will refer to simply as un-authenticated sources – these are personal, maybe organizational perceptions, beliefs expressed in books, magazines, databases, newsletters/paper and the internet.

We usually get information from these two sources all of the times and we don’t even bother to sieve where that information is coming from.

This information is then processed:

Perceiving, we pay attention to the information. Most of the people who put out information now realize that to catch your attention and stimulate your interest, they need to use graphics (specific colors and backgrounds), music, and drama.

After paying attention, you then store the information in your memory. If the stimulus for your attention is presented over a long period of time, and you think it is necessary for your survival, you will store this information in your long term memory. Where it is fleeting, it could be stored in the short term memory.

As we need to take decision, we then pull out these stored up information automatically, it just comes into your mind as the required consideration.

We then respond/behave based on the decision we had taken.

What does this mean for us as a society for instance? We see Instagram pictures of a young person posing behind a BMW X1 with a statement “God has done my own and you are next” then we all assume that “making it” means to have houses and a fleet of cars. We now wonder why the rising tide of yahoo boys, its information processing. We no longer do we celebrate “altruism” lending a helping hand, impact on lives through hard painstaking work following up a person. I know a teacher who says of her students all the time during graduation “another set leaving the coop” and takes pictures of them or takes pictures to celebrate ex students who are now doing well in all works of life, especially those who struggled in school.

The barrage of information is what is referred to as information overload. This is mental stress caused by receiving excessive information in the form of messages. Psychologist Grabovska (2020) has said that such information overload can lead to fatigue. Now we all know that there is a lot of fatigue in our society today despite our modern we know how to do it easily without stress mentality.

Many of the information is not processed adequately and can lead to either:

Misinformation – this is incorrect or misleading information presented as fact either intentionally or unintentionally.

Disinformation – which is information that is deliberately deceptive

Rumors – information not attributed to any particular source and so is unreliable and often unverified.

Most people cannot or choose not to verify/test the reality and authenticity of the information they receive via critical thinking which I will be discussing in another blog.

Working in the reverse, information overload can and does become a barrier to knowledge formation. This is why despite the massive information available to us we still encounter a lot of negative, problematic and chaotic behavior. Information ideally should help in decision making but what we see today is plenty confusion from the overload, inability to synthesize because of volume and noncompliance with the principles of attention sustenance. My question to you today is are you leaded with information? Also what have you done with the notes you’ve been taking at seminars and meeting? It’s not I can assure you about taking notes but about changing you.

I leave you with a final lesson I learned, three years ago during my leave I went to Port Harcourt and while there I attended a meeting organized by Olakunle Soriyan and as he got up to speak people got out their biros and note pads to begin writing and he said what are you writing you have been writing all your life. Then a few days ago I heard another respected person Pastor Bankie say in the medical student’s class he teaches, he has asked them not to write but listen attentively. It’s not about taking notes I say once again, it’s about changing things.

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