Thriving on Overload … how to keep on top of a world of relentless change … some great new insights from futurist Ross Dawson

September 25, 2022

In a world of extraordinary information overload, how do you keep on top of a changing world, and make some sense of the future?

My good friend Ross Dawson, an Australian futurist, has just published his latest book Thriving on Overload.

He suggests that there is a clear set of habits, approaches and technologies that can help us to master the tide and keep on top of it all. Those who learn to thrive on overload will be true masters of the information age,

We’re all familiar with the massive information overload that is the defining feature of our age. The incessant deluge threatens to drown us, yet within its excess lies almost everything of value today.

The capacity to thrive on limitless information is now the single most important capability for success, yielding not just powerful insight, world-leading expertise, and better decisions, but also improved wellbeing.

Ross shares simple actionable techniques for staying ahead in an accelerating world. It’s all about choosing to thrive on overload―rather than being overwhelmed by it. Develop the five intertwined powers that enable extraordinary performance in a world of overload:

  • Purpose: understanding why you engage with information enables a healthier relationship that generates success and balance in your life
  • Framing: creating frameworks that connect information into meaningful patterns builds deep knowledge, insight, and world-class expertise
  • Filtering: discerning which information best serves you helps surface valuable signals above the pervasive noise
  • Attention: allocating your awareness with intent―including laser-like focus and serendipitous discovery―maximizes productivity and outcomes
  • Synthesis: expanding your capacity to integrate a universe of ideas yields powerful insight, the ability to see opportunities first, and improved decision-making

In a business and working environment defined by excessive information, one of most powerful leverage points to increase corporate productivity is to assist individuals and teams to be more effective in how they deal with information overload.

Creating value from a superabundance of information is the foundational skill today for all executives, professionals, and managers. Few have ever been taught how to be effective at this, and everyone can improve their capabilities.

The role of a futurist as a leader

Through history there have been many wonderful visionaries, seers, and sci fi writers who have presented us with glimpses of the future. Here’s a list pulled together by Ross, which is worth exploring for its imagination, but also how they turned out years later:

Tools to explore the future

While foresight is largely based on human cognition and understanding, software can be very valuable in a variety of functions, including compiling, categorizing and connecting trends and themes, mapping systems, visualising change, and more:

The role of a futurist as a leader

A futurist’s aim is to encourage leadership on all levels. That is, helping people to think in a rich and structured way about tomorrow in order to act to day. Futurists are involved in sense making, giving people the ability to deal with information. Everyone is overwhelmed by the infinity of signals. Futurists help people to open their minds and think of things that they did not think before.

A vital point here is that the role of the futurist is not to provide outsourced thinking about the future.

The role of the futurist is to help everyone to become their own futurist, to think more broadly, to be open to different ideas, to stimulate and provoke into taking useful action.

We are at a critical juncture in human history, when actions we take – or do not take – today will shape our collective future to an extraordinary degree. The future is not predetermined. By understanding the nature of change we can act to create a better future.

Futurists, in grappling with these issues more than most, have a responsibility to help others to think forward and understand the potential impact of their actions.

In fact, in that all of us need to be our own futurists, we all have a responsibility not just to think about the future and how we will act. We also need to help others to think forward and in turn to act better today.

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