Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Data utilization: Information -> Understanding -> Action

My definition for the data utilization is the act of making practical and effective use of things known, or information or both of them, that are assumed as facts. This definition is not perfect, but it is close enough for what I am thinking. Anyone who has better words for the name of the mental model or it´s definition, is welcome to give better ones. The purpose is to describe the whole chain from acquiring information to last piece of the chain, which is action. The problem with the data utilization is that most of the people cannot use the whole chain effectively or cannot get enough useful information.


This word may not be the best one to use, but what I mean about information is all the messages, gossip, impulses and facts we receive from our environment or from some other medium. We live in the information age. All of us have better possibilities to acquire useful information than any time before in the history of the world. The problem is we get more information our brains can handle and the quality of the most of it is really poor. At least, ninety per cent of the information we receive has poor quality. And at least ninety per cent of the high quality information is never used, because of distractions or a lack of understanding about which information has the highest quality. I am probably very optimistic about these figures, because I read at least one non-fiction book every week and take notes from them. And until now, I have never taken notes that are even close to the amount of five per cent of any book. I have no doubts, that this blog will be the same for the readers. It is not a sad fact, it is a law of information.

Most of the information received is never consciously noticed, even though, our brains are actually processing it. What happens is that our brains make a decisions all the time whether something is useful to us or not. All the decisions consume energy. All the unnecessary decisions should be avoided by arranging our environment in a way in which the amount of unnecessary decisions are minimized. And we can focus on only things that are important to us. This gets more important all the time.

Understanding (Knowledge)

One can use the word knowledge, instead of understanding. The former word is more complicated to me and I prefer the latter. Understanding can be theoretical or practical. We can get understanding from content and experiences. For example, we can find understanding about how gravity is influencing to our smartphone by reading physics books or by dropping the smartphone from our hand. We will never have excellence unless we have some theoretical understanding about what we are doing. We will never be excellent in anything without knowing the factual principles about it. We will probably never be excellent in anything until we have collected enough practical understanding through our experiences. The combination of the theoretical and practical understanding will give the best results.

The problem with the amount of understanding is not the excess of it like with the information. In contrast, there is not enough understanding in the world. Understanding is getting harder, because the amount of information we are exposed to has sky-rocketed. At the same time, the processing of the information has diminished. It is easier to find a solution for a problem by searching it with Google than actually thinking about it. To get better results in life, there is a need to actually understand the solution we are given, because most of the solutions we find are not based on facts. Instead, they are based on beliefs and misunderstandings. The single biggest mistake in understanding great results is believing we can explain them with a single factor. This is a reason why it is important to understand a latticework of mental models.


Action can be defined as ”process of doing something”. This definition is good enough for me. This is the last piece of the chain, but not the least important. This is the part where I have the biggest problems. We can have the best quality information and a complete understanding about it, but still fail. It is very probable that we fail when we are not able to repeat the high quality actions consistently. You cannot have high quality actions by only learning theory. High quality actions need repetitions whether the action is a decision or a movement of the body part.

When we talk about movements and decisions, we are talking about a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons, which is a circuit of nerve fibers. Neurons are connected with each other by synapses. A simple action like kicking football goes through a circuit of hundreds of thousands of synapses and nerve fibers. The same circuit gets stronger when we repeat an action.The more repetition we have, the less aware we are about using the circuit. The more wrong repetitions we have, the harder it comes to unlearn or change the action. We will go further into details in the next mental model, skills.

We should divide actions into conscious and unconscious actions. I have seen many different evaluations about their proportions in each person´s life. Depending on the source, unconscious actions are working from 40 per cent to 95 per cent of the time. Reality depends on a person and truth lies somewhere in between those numbers. Conscious actions are important in improving unconscious actions. It is harder to improve unless we think what we are doing. Well learnt practical actions are automated and do not require consciousness. This is actually a requirement for expertise in them. It saves energy, which is necessary.

Habits are probably the most important unconscious actions. Developing the high quality habits are the best way to get better success in our lives. Bad habits may destroy all the good ones and do the damage we cannot outdone without changing them. Consciousness is a hindrance in practical actions. It can be very useful in decision-making. At least when there are many things to consider and enough time to make a decision.

All the parts need to have a high quality

The quality of the chain is equal to its weakest link. Unless we cannot focus on a high quality understanding of the high quality information, we have no chance to act wisely. To do the right things, in the right order, in the right time is hard. Lets think about a simple looking action like passing a ball in soccer. This is a very simplified version of the chain. We are talking now about one way of passing the ball.

First, player needs high quality information. The pass has at least ten parts. And player needs someone who is able to show all the different parts and the whole action to a player. All the information about the different parts and the whole action should have high quality. Then, the player needs to understand how all these parts function together and what are the consequences when some parts are not performed as they should be. Player should also understand, for example, what is the optimal power to perform the passing action in different situations in the game or where to direct the pass. Then comes the passing action, which should be repeated all the time in the right way to improve the skill.

We will concentrate on skills next week.


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