All the noise

There’s all this noise. The news, the chatter about others we know, the chatter from others we know, the plaudits about the movers and shakers of the day, and everything else that we think we need to keep up with.

The default setting for the noise in our lives at this time is “on.” And, it is easy to forget that none of it matters unless we earn our livelihood by writing about the noise.

For most of the rest of us, all that counts is just what we do with what we control and how thoughtfully we do it.

The more time we can spend with the noise turned off, the more we’ll ship, the better we’ll get at shipping what we want to ship, and, if we’re thoughtful about it, we might learn a thing or two about living these days better.

So, let’s put those proverbial headphones and get to work.

Availability bias, news, and Google vs. Apple/Amazon

I think it is possible that the amount of news coverage an event receives today equals ten years of news coverage in the 18th century. This amount of chatter greatly affects perception. And, the amount of chatter is definitely not correlated to accuracy.

An example from this week is the news on the earnings from all the major technology companies. We had news from Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. A lot of the news in the past 4 years around Apple (since Steve Jobs left) has revolved around whether Apple has what it takes to continue making money without their visionary founder. And, until a year ago, I was in that camp.

And, this last quarter, Apple sold 74 billion dollars of products. To put that number in context, that is more than the revenue of a collection of the next few technology firms (Microsoft, Google, Facebook) put together. And, in that one quarter, Apple’s profits were larger than Google’s revenues. There are similar negative perceptions about Amazon’s stock. Google, on the other hand, has had a consistent stream of positive press for its ‘moon shots’.

But, here’s a dose of reality –
– Apple makes money by selling premium devices to the high end of the market. The high end of the market isn’t going away any time soon.
– Amazon is still less than 2% of North American retail and, once cloud computing takes off completely, Amazon Web Services could dwarf its e-commerce sales in 10 years.
– Google is searching for ways to compensate for its declining advertising revenue by investing in a whole host of businesses. Google’s stronghold was on the desktop/laptop. Mobile hasn’t worked nearly as well. That’s not to say it won’t figure out the next step. It is just that the news around Google in comparison to firms like Apple is often dis proportionally positive.

All this news and chatter affects our perception. Information that is easily available to us feels right because we can easily recall it when making decisions. But, just because we’ve heard something 10 times doesn’t necessarily mean it is right. Availability bias, however, is something we fall prey to repeatedly and is a big part of being human.

The <15 word summary of the post so far could very well be interpreted as – ‘Beware news. Dig deep to understand what is really going on.’

But, the point I’m hoping to make is a level deeper – it is to think intentionally about the content we consume. This means –
1. Audit your sources of content – news, feeds, facebook, twitter, linkedin friends, etc. – and understand where we develop points of view on what’s going on in the world
2. Develop a content consumption habit and plan in alignment with the sort of person you want to be. If you want to think deeply about the automotive industry, find the best automotive industry blog and shelve time spent on reading stuff that doesn’t add value

These small decisions inform the way we think about and approach the world and our lives. Let’s approach them with care.