Systematically Underestimated

“We systematically overestimate the value of access to information and underestimate the value of access to each other.”

Clay Shirky


If all we needed was access to information, then all those who had an encyclopaedia would have been considered a genius for much of last century and anyone with a web browser today would be unstoppable.


The truth is that you can be a sponge for information, soaking up books, articles, posts, podcasts and videos – but having the information isn’t the interesting thing. What you do with it – that’s where it begins to get juicy.


That’s what an artist does. They take the dots (information) and find new ways to sort them (curation) or build upon them (evolution). They gather ideas that haven’t been considered together before and share new insights.


But those insights only have limited value until they’re shared with others.


Technology brings with it the opportunity for us to access more people, but in some ways it has diminished the value of each connection.


The pace of online communication reduces what once would have been entire conversations to a brief flurry of instant messages. Terse. Dashed off without a lot of thought (or care). And ephemeral. The conversation will scroll up or be swiped off our screen in moments, if it doesn’t expire and disappear permanently.


So we talk to more people, but we tell them less.


We’re less likely to engage in deep conversation, where we tease out a thought or question and discover how far we can stretch it. On the occasions where we ask how people are, we are less likely to really listen to their answer.


What might it be like if we were to begin to value our connections with each other? To reinvest in the significant people in our lives? To define that group of people who mean a lot to us and go all in on those relationships?


I believe that most of us can find deeper levels of connection with even the people we’re closest with. The people we love, those we trust, those that mean something to us.


We can contribute more to their lives. We can offer them our full attention when we speak. Instead of texting a question or reply, we can actually call them and converse in full sentences. We can rediscover the nuances of emotion in the human voice, interpret the meanings between the words and reengage in the pleasure of really feeling seen and heard.


We can use the people we know to foster insights and understanding that enhance anything we can discover by ourselves in books and online. We can use meetings for more than in person gatherings to create to-do lists.


Presenting your ideas to others prompts you to get them straight first in your own mind. A group of friends or colleagues that value each other can be a wonderful source of feedback and encouragement. Bounce your questions and assertions around the minds of people you trust and you’ll be challenged to improve your answers, reframe your questions and consider ways of thinking that hadn’t even crossed your mind.


Seek out people who will encourage you to improve your thinking, and be generous enough to offer the same to others. The first way to improve your value in the eyes of others is to see yourself as having value.


Where is there a cluster of people in your network who are underestimating the value that they have as a group? How can you provide the encouragement or even opportunity for it to be embraced?


Hey – I noticed you’ve each mentioned you’re concerned about [this thing]. Why don’t we put our heads together and see if we can work out a solution?


You know, when I think about it – we’re all working on similar stuff. Instead of each of us going it alone, how about we get together and share what we’ve learned so we can support each other?


Hi – I can’t help but notice that you seem stuck. Am I right? I don’t know if I’ve got the right answers, but I’d like to help.


Try it, and let me know what happens.

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