Writing is my way of diving deep into an issue. My approach is to watch, read and listen – sometimes for years – in order to grasp the dynamics, resistance and patterns of thought that repeat and impede progress and breakthrough. – Paul Hawken
I’ve been doing a lot of research this year and in the process thinking about how to do research.
There’s a lot of information out there and you can’t tell what’s useful and what isn’t without spending some time going through it all.
Now clearly, you can’t go through it all, there’s just too much, so you have to search, to dig, to find the things that are important.
Search engines can show you some things but then you also need to follow trails, look at what others have read and discussed.
But then you have to work out whether to listen to one person and ignore another. How well do they write, and where are they being published?
If you go for the high impact journals, however, are you cutting yourself off from the information at the edges, the places where often innovation comes from?
The edge, on the other hand, is also where crackpots live, with theories and ideas that are nonsensical.
Once you start looking at things deeply you realise that the further away you are from where the “happenings” are, the less likely it is that you really understand what’s going on.
If you’re reasonably well off you really can’t appreciate what people are going through in a cost of living crisis unless you’ve experienced it before yourself on the way to getting rich.
You really can’t understand how markets function and why prices move the way they do if you haven’t been involved in trading a position.
You can talk about it and you can hold certain beliefs – ones founded in faith in long-dead philosophers – but unless you’re close to where the action is your chances of really getting it are slim.
To really “get” it then, you have to commit – to dive in and immerse yourself in what’s going on.
You’ll never understand anything or master it by watching from a distance.
You have to get involved and do it.
The challenge is that you can’t dive into everything – so you need to pick what you want to do on the basis that you’d be happy spending the rest of your life doing that.