Friday, 21 March 2008

Life is an Open Book Test

I just typed "Life is an Open Book Test" when I was working on part of my ASTD 2008 presentation. I did a quick search on this phrase and found only 52 occurrences. There doesn't appear to be a well known initial quote source. Or am I missing it?

By the way, have I mentioned that I'm feeling really good about this presentation? I have 90 minutes and I think I'm going to blow some minds, change a few lives, its going to be fun. If I can figure out how to shorten it, I think I have a presentation that's going to be a great keynote.

Anyhow, back to Life is an Open Book Test ...

I start this part of the presentation by asking the question:

What's more valuable?

1. A Phone Number kept in your Long-term Memory?
2. A Phone Number kept in your Cell Phone, PDA, Laptop, Organizer?

I expect there will be a little debate among the audience. But the actual answer is that it depends on how available that number is when you need it. This really goes for any information.

When needed is it:
  • Easily / Quickly Available
  • Accessible in a usable form
In the phone number case, having it in my cell phone as opposed to in my memory makes it slightly slower to access, but much quicker to dial (i.e., it's more usable in the cell phone than in my memory). My Treo allows me to type some letters (on my chicklet keyboard) that represent the name and then I select and dial. Other cell phones you say the name and it dials. All of these are superior to having it in your brain's memory and having to remember and punch it in. This is why teenagers actually remember fewer phone numbers than people over 50.

I will extend the question to then ask whether trying to put all of the White Pages and Yellow Pages into your Cell Phone makes sense? Likely it doesn't as long as you have ways to get to that information. For example, Google-411 or Google Info.

I believe this extends to lots of information. My 10 year old recently went through the exercise of learning all the capitals of the 50 US States. He's quite adept at memorization and can easily beat me (since he was around 5 years old) at concentration games. While the knowledge of state capitals might be valuable for future trivia, I would ask whether knowing this information is better or would it be better for him to know how to quickly look that information up (along with all sorts of other information about the state).

The bottom line for all of this are two important phrases:

Anticipated Information Need


Life is an Open Book Test

There's more context here in the presentation, but the key ingredient is that we need to build skills in determining what our future information needs will be and whether we are trying to keep and organize individual pieces of information. Or do we keep meta-information (information about how to get to that information)? Or do we not really need to do anything?

After all - Life is an Open Book Test

I'd be curious if anyone has thoughts on this. In the past, I've received some pretty amazing feedback this way that significantly altered what I was going to present.

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