Vary Your Information Diet

If you only read highbrow publications like The Economist, I recommend that you consider regularly browsing the likes of People, Hello! and USA Today, if only just to expose yourself to completely different interests and points of view. Likewise, if you are immersed in pop culture, sports, and social media, I’d seriously advise you to vary your information intake. Unlike some, I think going on a media diet or fast is neither realistic nor productive: In today’s complex world, one needs to be an information omnivore, and ideally a discerning omnivore.

Thinking back to the 1990s, I remember meeting many executives who thought exactly the opposite of what I was advising: that you should literally tune out everything you can’t control (consider it background noise), and focus entirely on the few things you can control. Of course by the time 9/11 hit, that way of dealing with—or rather not dealing with—our ever more complex world went out the window. Still there were those, like myself, who had preached for years on the importance of peripheral version and on the value of monitoring the external business environment. Fortune magazine wrote in the 1990s about the “reflection imperative,” “the need to intensify your intelligence gathering—internally and externally,” and cited the example of then IBM CEO Lou Gerstner: “Every six weeks he takes his top 40 managers off-site for a two-day retreat … dedicated to management learning in nontraditional areas. Each session ...

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