Are You Truly Informed?

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Seth Godin wrote an interesting blog today pondering whether there will ever be a time when being uninformed is cause for shame. It’s a good question, particularly in a culture that seems to equate “uninformed” with “real.” A culture that thinks having an “elite education” is a bad thing (and it’s especially galling when these invectives come from graduates of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale). A culture that watches only Fox News or only MSNBC and considers itself informed. Here’s a secret:

If you’re only informed about one side of an issue, you aren’t informed.

I talk a lot about award-winning performance. It’s what I teach, and it’s what I try to practice in my own life. I’m passionate about helping people rise to their true potential and perform at the peak of their ability. And to me, part of award-winning performance is continual learning—a continual state of being informed. And whether you’re talking about politics, business, travel advice, or virtually any other arena, if you’re getting all of your information from one source, you aren’t informed. You’re doing yourself a disservice.

In one of my keynote presentations, It’s Showtime! Producing Award-Winning Performance In Business and In Life, I talk about the importance of having people in your life with divergent viewpoints. In fact, one person whom I strongly believe you need to have in your life is a smart person who disagrees with you. For example, in about two hours I’m having lunch with a friend who couldn’t be further apart from me politically. Although we disagree, I like to think that we learn from each other (I know that I learn from him).

If the only people you talk to about your business are other people who are in your business or line of work, you aren’t fully informed. You’re doing yourself a disservice. Yes, you can get great ideas from others in your field. I make a good deal of my income speaking at business and association conferences, and I would never underestimate the value of sharing best practices (as well as war stories) with colleagues who have walked in your shoes. But I’d also never underestimate the value of the outside perspective—the idea you and your colleagues would never come up with because it comes from outside of your field of vision.

What can a banker learn from a gymnast? What can a plumber learn from a librarian? Maybe nothing. But maybe everything.

Being informed—truly informed—means being curious. It means not accepting something at face value just because you heard it from your favorite commentator, pundit, adviser, teacher, or friend. It means reading outside of your area of expertise and getting other points of view. It means talking with smart people who disagree with you.

Will there ever be a time when being uninformed is cause for shame? I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but for me, that time is now.

How about for you?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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