The world has changed greatly in the past 10-20 years. Just think of how you used to work then compared to how you work now…

But education for most has barely changed.

We no longer need to memorise facts. -There’s an app for that. We have access to most information that we will need, we have access to tools to enable us to do complex calculations, we can look up quotes or esoteric trivia at any time. Hey there is even a spell checker on almost every device we now use.

This is very different from how most of us were taught in school. There the most important skill would be memory. You were expected to memorise everything.

Critical thinking is extremely important, but I think it is a subset of this skill that is going to be most important as we go forward. This is the ability to filter and weigh the value of information that you have accessed.

I’ll call this filtering here, which is a simple description, of what is really critical thinking applied to ascertaining the value of information.

This is important because of the amount of bad data on the internet. Opinion based, erroneous assumptions, or information tainted by a hidden or obvious agenda. When you are operating on bad data then any solution you create is going to be undermined and may implode at any time.

Many of the Millennials that I have contact with are already very quick at spotting agendas and advertisements online. They have grown up with this and it is almost second nature to them.

-As an aside, a colleague on the TEDx Ruakura committee pointed out that this is why many in this age group have such a mistrust of politicians. They know there is an agenda, but most politicians keep their agendas close to their chest, which Millennials distrust.

The skill of filtering is something you must improve to ensure that you are effective in the coming years. Because acting on information that is not 100% accurate, or which serves an agenda of which you are ignorant is likely to be a real problem.

So how do you improve your Filtering?

First be aware that it is a skill you need to practice. And like any skill the key is practice. Start small. Before you share any post on social media, think about why this post exists, and what the person posting it is trying to accomplish.

  • Is the post-er the originator of the content in the post?
  • Or are they using someone else’s content to further their reach on this platform?
  • If you share this post, what is your exposure to ‘endorsing’ this post?
  • How could it backfire?

This is simple, but becoming mindful when doing this will start you off with the habit of critical thinking about online information. Building on this habit by thinking about where the information you are about to take on board is a natural next step and will again improve with use.

If you are trying to foster this skill in others, staff, children etc. Then explicitly ask them questions about information they share with you. Don’t judge their responses. Just ask the questions. They will pick up on this and will start asking themselves the questions over time.

 

I hope this post is useful to you. If you have any experience or insights around critical thinking or filtering of information please share them in the comments below.