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Watching Digital Nation on Frontline I’m seeing a hell of a lot of agenda disguised as concern. The show is fascinating but it gets lazy — leaning on assumptions when the data isn’t there. If anyone can tell me the study done of multitaskers was executed without an agenda then I’d also like to hear your thoughts on Fair and Balanced ™.

However, I share the concern. Not that technology is making us dumber, or even less wise. In fact, an alternate title for this post could be “How to appear dumber than you are.”

My concern is that decision-making as a skill is atrophying.

In a world that moves this fast and has this much data available within seconds, we’re under the impression that clicking a link is making a decision. Of course, it is, but it’s not an important one. A standard morning is now jam-packed full of tiny choices (what to have for breakfast, what socks to wear, how to get to work this morning). Then you can add literally thousands more (should I click on that news link or just favorite it? is that feed interesting to me? which email should I answer first?) In the midst of so much noise, and in the vein of fast-pace for fast-pace’s sake, why should a more complex decision require more thought?

The funny thing about the flawed study of multitaskers in Digital Nation is that it fell into the same trap that multitaskers fall into. Gather seventeen pounds of data, shake, repeat, realize you need more data to make a good call and come to a conclusion anyway.

There’s a simple rule for making a good decision, and it applies to any dilemma from “should I call her and apologize?” to “should I launch the game?” to “should I attack Iraq?”:

Consideration should be equal to the facts in front of you.

Facts, as defined here, means hard data (“she’s always hated it when I apologize”) and strategic priority (“it’s the opening salvo of the War on Terror! winkwink”).

In a nutshell, you need to look at the problem you’re trying to solve, determine if it’s important, ponder the consequences if A or B is done based on solid data/history, and decipher the bones that drop on your desk. It may be that the decision isn’t needed right now because the priority isn’t high enough. It may be that the data is insufficient. But, in the end, if the problem is big enough it deserves big thought. BIG thought.

It takes time, sometimes. It takes quiet thought. It even takes patience. None of which feels in abundance these days, right?

Having said all that, I highly recommend Digital Nation. It’s good data ;-)