The Magic Device, Fake News and the Lost Skill of Information Filtering

Article by Ken Thompson, last updated November 2021

I have been wondering whether any of the great science fiction writers of the 20th century such as Arthur C Clarke, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley ever envisaged the scenario of every human on the planet holding in their hand a magic device to instantly answer any question? They probably thought it would be just too far-fetched even for their vivid imaginations!

Well that is what we have today - the source of all human knowledge potentially at our fingertips!

The only problem is many of the answers our magic devices give are at best debateable and at worst disproven, out of date, incorrect or even faked! 

For example, some of the “facts” on the internet have as their source a single old but unproven post which over time has been referenced so much that it has gained credibility through popularity. This is also one of the techniques of the fake news creator. These expert manipulators understand only too well our low attention span, herd mentality and mental laziness and thus are able to counterfeit accuracy by manipulating volume to create popularity. 

Recovering the lost skill of Information Filtering

When we run business simulations with organizations we often present the participants with continuous streams of news updates to help them test and develop their Information Filtering skills. Some of these updates are vital and urgent but many are red herrings and information which is intriguing but either has no impact or is outside the participants sphere of control.

We also share with a simple Information Filtering process which is summarized below to encourage them to pose 4 simple questions about any new piece of information starting with the timeless classics of “Who Says?” and “So What?”

Information Filtering Model

As Leaders we need to become expert at asking these 4 simple questions especially anytime we use our magic devices!

Challenge the Information Filtering skills of Leaders in your Organization with a Business Simulation ... Find out more

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Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

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