Becoming an educated consumer of ideas

I had a paper due last week that included a critical review on the ideas and strategy of a talented scholar. At first I struggled with the idea that my feedback could possibly be valuable. It wasn’t until I began to evaluate the content with fresh eyes that I was able to find the perspective I needed to add value.

Adding to a body of work in any area is intimidating, but it’s exactly how new ideas are born. The work I was reading had a particular approach that could be reused and adapted to meet other environments and it was my fresh perspective and background that make that possible.

It is in this frame that I present my newly created 3 step process to becoming an educated consumer of ideas:

  1. Educated idea consumers have a base to start from: You must first have a foundation of knowledge to evaluate content on. In the case of my paper, I was using research methodology and types of critical inquiry to evaluate the authors work. In order to provide any feedback of value, I had to make sure I understood the theory behind research and inquiry before evaluating theirs. See the contrary approach of the guy who refuses to vote but criticises the politician.
  2. Admit what you do not know: I was not an expert in the topic of the paper so didn’t provide feedback on the data itself, but instead on the way they approached the research question and the methodology they used to develop their theory. See the guy who critiques the mechanic when they have never even lifted a wrench.
  3. Take a chance to learn from what you read or hear: The topic of the paper was fascinating to me well beyond what I was tasked with reading it for. It motivated me to do additional reading to further solidify the new ideas in my own mind. While at first I was intimidated by the topic I was able to take the new content on a more personal journey through the internet so that I could understand the overall purpose more fully and add a new tool in my mental toolbox to further improve the way I work. See the girl who receives irrefutable evidence but still swears that her argument is valid.

Reading and writing critically will be something I continue to work on, but with the help of great instructors, and some friends on the internet I was able to learn about two things at once. Talk about double dipping! If we each apply these three simple steps we can all become more educated consumers and creators of ideas.


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