Data dilution

John F. Kennedy once remarked,
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And people have taken this philosophy to heart.

They attend lectures, seminars and night
classes on a host of topics. They subscribe
to cable television services that provide a
nearly limitless smorgasbord of choices.
They proudly report to their friends that
they’re “on their third book this month.”
And they surf the Web. But how much of
this information really sticks? How much
of it has an impact on people’s lives, either
professional or personal?

“Very little,” says Dr. Dick Ruhe, a senior
consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “And if there is a trend right
now, it’s in the wrong direction. Now, we
can get our hands almost immediately on
anything that’s out there. The problem is
there’s too much of it.”

Smart Business spoke with Ruhe about
this tidal wave of information and what to
do about it. He recently coauthored “Know
Can Do!” with Ken Blanchard and Paul J.
Meyer. The book deals head-on with the
challenge of getting things to stick.

What are the three reasons people don’t

The first is ‘information overload.’ There
is simply too much coming in. People
either don’t focus, or can’t. The mass of
data dilutes any one piece of it. We don’t
need more breadth, we need more depth.
The second is ‘negative filtering.’ People
close their own minds through negative
thinking. They critically question all new
ideas. Such evaluation is helpful, but too
much of it is crippling. The third is ‘lack of
follow-up.’ The research is clear that even
when people successfully incorporate
fresh information into their thinking, it rapidly goes away unless used very soon.

Can less actually be more when it comes to
reading and learning?

One of the problems that people have
with knowledge is they keep wanting to
know new things. Who wouldn’t want to be
in the group that wants to know new
things? Besides, they actually don’t have a
choice. We already know that most people
spend the majority of their communications time reading and listening, rather
than writing and speaking. So there is a
nonstop flood of information coming in.
People complain about being buried in it.

The problem is that people can only
emphasize a few things. Those who try to
emphasize everything emphasize nothing.
In order to take advantage of new information, we have to reduce this flood down to
the ‘critical few.’

The book mentions Green Light Thinking.
What is that?

Not only are people themselves hyper-critical, but they are surrounded by wet
blankets. When approached by others with
ideas, there is a natural human tendency to
look for what is wrong or at least the major
obstacles to adopting a new order of
things. A limited amount of this is OK, but
too much reduces any chance of running
with a new approach or solution.

We suggest holding people accountable
for Green Light Thinking. Before they can
say anything negative about something,
they must identify reasons and solutions
that support it. There will be plenty of time
later to coarse- or fine-tune the recommendation. During meetings it can make
sense to literally assign someone to be the
Green Light Thinker. The person becomes
the advocate and contributes the optimism and positive mindset that often are

How can you change the energy level people
have to do things differently?

An essential ingredient in making change
happen, any kind of change, is ensuring
that there are positive consequences in
place. Whether it’s for others or for ourselves, there must be a conscious or subconscious association of good things with
the initiative. Energy includes drive, motivation, attitude, inspiration, enthusiasm,
etc. All of these have a strong positive correlation with positive consequences. If you
go on a diet, recognize progress — any
progress. If you are trying to adopt a new
problem-solving system, celebrate success
in moving forward.

How does the concept of unconditional love
come into play?

This is quite related to positive consequences. People get so accustomed to trying to do better, they actually don’t even
see the improvement; they only see where
they could have done better. So they pre-dispose themselves to a critical, negativistic attitude. In ‘Know Can Do!’ we suggest
‘catching people doing something right.’
Many people go through their whole lives
trying to finally get approval from important others who may not even be with them
any longer — parents, teachers, coaches
and so on. There isn’t enough unconditional love. If there were, there would be less
dissatisfaction and depression and more
good in the world.

DICK RUHE is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at