In the Age of Infinite Information, the Real Skill is Knowing What You Can Trust
When everyone can get a million hits on Google in a millisecond or watch news 24 hours a day, learning to spot spin and hidden agendas is crucial.
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The learning curve for today's young professional is flatter than past generations because of the availability of information, but with so many different resources for information today, young professionals must add learning to detect bias into our career growth stratety.
When we listen to a pitch from a salesman or a stance on a debatable issue from a politician, we can easily identify their bias. But what about the bias that comes from all the little pieces of information you take in on a daily basis? We are well into the information age and there is a ton of recycled data that has been "spun." After you get in the habit of acquiring more relevant knowledge, make sure you have a process to drain out bias.
Bias can be blatant or subtle. Financial and political bias can be blatant. If you read a book, watch a video clip or even have a conversation with someone, it is always good to find how where "their bread is buttered,'' meaning how they make their money.
Think of the Ebola media frenzy. Is it to sell more newspapers, get higher ratings or even a political play as we approach elections? The information you are hearing may be infected with bias.
The more subtle types of bias that you may have to drain out of the information you absorb are cultural, religious, geographical, age, timing and educational bias. The more you can learn about the creator's background, the easier it will be to identify potential bias. You could read a book or journal by two brilliant Harvard professors on the same exact topic. But perhaps one author is 35 years old and the other is 65 years old. Will that have any effect on the way they convey the message in their book? Or one author grew up in Tokyo and the other in rural Nebraska. It might not affect the core of the information but maybe the tone or slant with which the information is positioned.
Another example is if you watch two different television interviews about the economy and the future job markets. One interviewee just learned that his job is in question due to potential company layoffs. The other interviewee found out that his company is hiring ten more people in his department alone. Even though they have access to the same economic research and their companies don't have a great effect on the economy at a macro level, their personal lives can spin their message or delivery.
Immediate gratification can get in the way of acquiring proper knowledge as well. We tend to fall victim to a "page one" mentality when doing research on the Internet, meaning we don't look much further than the results on the first few pages of a Google search. According to Optify, a digital marketing software company, being the first result on the first page of a Google search will result in a 36 percent chance of being "clicked."
Being on the first page only gives you a 8.9 percent chance. If your site is on page two of a search, there is only a 1.5 percent chance it will get clicked on in a search. Impressive search engine optimization doesn't always translate into the most accurate and beneficial information.
Young professionals needn't become complete skeptics. Just be cautious of all the information that we can use to seemingly inform us and, presumably, advance our careers. Draining bias is intended to help you, your mind and your outlook be strengthened through pure knowledge and your own thought.