What has struck me in the past few weeks of watching both our new President and the coach of my beloved New England Patriots interact with the media is how both individuals manage the information that reaches the public. President Trump’s style, for better or worse, is more spontaneous, but he has been called out by media organizations across the political spectrum for the contradictory statements he has made along the way. Meanwhile, there are no contradictions in a Bill Belichick press conference. If you exclude proper nouns, it seems possible he’s uttered less than a thousand different words to the media in his multi-decade career and they are all, maddeningly, on message.
It’s made me wonder, in this age of instant access to fact checkers and transcripts (but also fake and biased news sites and social media), what is the value of a more or less verbose public figure? Is it better for democracy to have a leader who only speaks in focus-group-refined pablum, or do we learn more from an authentic, if contradictory, politician.
What I’ve come to appreciate is the ability to track what people are doing, rather than getting worked up over what they are saying. To be sure, words do matter and have wide-ranging effects, but in terms of actionable and concrete data, press conferences are almost always more entertainment than accountability.
All of which is to say, this reaffirms my belief that 2017 will be a watershed year for the way we think about the importance of critical thinking and information literacy skills. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Socialist, if you want to maintain agency in this rapidly-evolving landscape, you will have to be able to navigate information accurately and responsibly. Passively receiving what information comes your way is simply not a strategy for success in the knowledge economy, in your professional, personal, or political life. One of Belichick’s catch-all catch phrases goes, “It is what it is.” Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be forever. We can all become better thinkers, and we’ll have to if we want to make it in the 21st century.
Image credit: Jeremy Vandroff, via Flickr
Author: Mike Sweet
Mike Sweet is a visionary business leader who is taking education and the world of work into the future. His experience managing hundreds of employees helped him recognize the need for education to go well-beyond simple knowledge and technical skill acquisition to ensure people know what, how, and when to learn something new. This real-time learning ability is crucial for success as we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Prior to NimblyWise, Mike was the CEO of Credo Reference, a SaaS based research platform provider, for 10 years. His expertise in technology, culture-building and business growth strategies enabled Credo Reference to expand rapidly and build a loyal customer base of thousands of libraries. The company earned several awards for its products and services, including SIAA CODiE awards across multiple categories, Library Journal’s Best Reference Award, Choice’s Outstanding Title recognition, and a place on eContent Magazine’s Top 100 Companies. Before joining Credo Reference as CFO in 2006, Mike served as CFO and COO of CoreWeb, a software development and consulting company. He also spent seven years at Global Insight providing Fortune 500 companies with business planning solutions for market analysis and strategic planning. Mike holds an MBA from Babson and lives in Natick, Massachusetts with his wife, Jessica, and his two daughters, Charlotte and Avery.