Advances in technology enable us to live in an ‘eat all you can’ age of information. But are we at our best with our senses working overtime? Can we think clearly and make wise decisions in business and life if we are connected to everything all the time?
The whole question of life in the fast lane fell into sharp relief for me recently when I had a breast cancer scare. Fortunately this proved to be a false alarm, but it gave me the perfect opportunity to consider what mattered most and what could wait. We need a two-pronged approach to a connected world to give us perspective as well as responsiveness. I went in search of examples of fast information and slower wisdom.
The fast lane
Accelerated culture helps us to access more information at times of our choosing, allowing us to live in a more spontaneous 'last minute' way. Just think of the last time you booked cinema tickets, air travel, a brief encounter and so on. However it’s not enough to just have more information. We need better information to inform our decisions.
Roberto Ascione is a healthcare entrepreneur with a passion to give us faster, better information to help us live fitter, happier and more fulfilled lives. As we collect more and more data on health, the big challenge is to replace ‘drowning in data’ with ‘swimming with information’. As a data, knowledge and information specialist I asked Roberto for his thoughts on accelerated culture in healthcare.
"We live in an 'I want it all, I want it now' society. But the amount of data has grown exponentially and we would collapse under petabytes of data if we actually tried to consume it all. Instead people need good quality information to make informed decisions about health and that’s what we specialise in.
"A sort of individual data-driven health story which, by boosting true understanding, will promote better health outcomes for everyone."
Accelerated culture also gives us the ability to access new experiences anytime, anywhere, anyhow. As a child I was captivated by the quest to land a man on the moon. This awesome goal clearly inspired Richard Branson and resulted in Virgin Galactic. It also touched Anna Hill, an entrepreneur who is quite literally looking at the stars with her start-up Space Synapse.
Finding your own sacred time and space for mindfulness is an important part of any entrepreneur’s PSP (Personal Sanity Plan)
Anna’s passion is to democratise the human experience of space exploration through online games and other interactive processes. This means that everyone will have the opportunity to travel through time and experience the heavens on earth even if we are unable to travel to the stars. So, in the near future we’ll have the world’s information at our fingertips and that of other planets.
Slow down, you move too fast
Neuroscientists estimate that our experiences of 'being fully present' are fleeting moments that last just three to four seconds on average. What then can we do to improve our ability to contemplate for longer periods of time when it matters, in terms of decision-making, business strategy and practice?
Some things in life benefit from incubation and the use of our 'tortoise minds', rather than our 'hare brains'. This came to me when I went to meet entrepreneur Mark Sillitoe at the Anniversary Olympic Games in the Queen Elizabeth Park, where Usain Bolt won the 100 metres at his usual break neck speed.
Mark has invested in the Olympic legacy by maintaining the fleet of Widebeam Barges built specially for the 2012 games using clean technologies. The man-made river system uses natural reed beds and other flora and fauna to provide a sustainable ecosystem in the heart of London. A cruise on the river gave me a rare moment for mindful contemplation and the opportunity to finish the book I am writing, which needs quality time and focus.
If we are to live in a connected world, all of us need the occasional pit stop for reflection and growth. Finding your own sacred time and space for mindfulness is an important part of any entrepreneur’s PSP (Personal Sanity Plan).
Not only the tortoise but also the hare
In an 'I want it all, I want it now' society, we must make wise decisions to balance our long and short-term goals. This means that, on occasions we must behave like the tortoise, at other times like the hare. I am reminded of this important maxim from Hyman Schachtel, which applies to an accelerated culture:
"Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have"