The Dumbing Down of Knowledge

The world is faced with enormous challenges, and we need creativity and innovation more than ever. Whether today’s focus is on climate change, terrorism, economic collapse or disease, the ‘old-world’ thinking that got us here will not be good enough to lead us to where we need to get to. one can dispute that the growth of the internet and the explosion of personal device ownership has made available more data to more people in the space of just a few short years than was ever available in the history of humanity. The trouble is that knowledge search algorithms generally assume that volume is good. The more something is searched for, the more privileged it becomes. The information at the top of the list does not reflect quality, it reflects desirability. And, it fosters laziness. Personalisation ensures that we are presented with our ‘favourites’, the things we have ‘said we enjoy’ in the past.  Despite the diversity of knowledge that is potentially available, the interfaces through which we access information, ironically, narrows our universe.

Even in the corridors of academia the impact of more digitized information is resulting in tardiness of investigation. In one telling study, an analysis of the patterns of citations included in scientific journals over the period 1945 to 2005, revealed that, as more journals moved on-line, scholars cited fewer articles than before, and furthermore, they cited more recent articles with increasing frequency. It would appear that, even in the world of scientific research, where arguably we need some of our most significant advances in creativity to emerge, a broadening of available information leads to a “narrowing of science and scholarship” (ref: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, 2010).

The danger lies in the fact that search engines act as ‘amplifiers’ of popularity, establishing and reinforcing a consensus about what is important and what is not. New thinking and creativity needs the very opposite of this. It needs people to think differently. Creativity is fragile and subtle. It emerges from accidental discovery, from looking in unusual places, being alert to odd connections and being prepared to wander off the main path.

The challenges to be faced by our future leaders, scientists, economists and thinkers are stark. The good news is that there is more information ‘out there’ to help them craft solutions than ever before. The danger is exactly the same.


Coaching is a powerful and proven approach for helping you release your inner creativity. Would you, or members of your organisation, benefit from exploring ways to make significant improvements in personal and/or collective effectiveness and productivity? Simply drop me your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to speak with you. 

credit: image source


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s