It might seem absurd that something as simple as a method of highlighting could be so important to a person’s productivity and learning. Even I’m surprised that’s turned out to be the case.
But as testimonials and stories have streamed in from people putting it to use around the world, I’ve become convinced that it is the beginning of a sea change in how we consume information. Just as mindless materialism has given way to mindful consumption, as we’ve realized that more is not always better, I believe we’re starting to see a parallel shift in our attitude toward information consumption. We’re learning that making is often more satisfying than consuming.
“Economic development is based not on the ability of a pocket of the economy to consume but on the ability of people to turn their dreams into reality”
–Cesar Hidalgo, Why Information Grows
College students have told me they will never take notes any other way (“You mean my class notes could be useful even after I graduate?!”). Elite consultants have used it to help their clients make sense of the massive amount of data they have at their disposal. I’ve been happily surprised to hear people with many years of educational experience tell me that Progressive Summarization has reinvigorated their reading and note-taking.
Even if you decide not to adopt the summarization method as I’ve described it in this series, I want to outline what I believe to be the universal principles of knowledge capture in the digital age.
In no particular order:
- Interaction over consumption
- Balance detail with discoverability
- Opportunistic compression
- Intuition over analysis
- Focus most of your attention on the most valuable information
- Tacit knowledge over explicit knowledge
- Value questions over answers
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