As a toddler, I took great pride in being able to rattle off the names of all the Kittredges (Barry, Bobby, Eddy, Georgie, Chucky, Sydney, Al, Ralph and Adele), a large family who lived across from us on Somerset Street. Later, it was important to me to have read every Nancy Drew mystery then every Agatha Christie then all of Ngaio Marsh (all 35+ of which I reread before making a pilgrimage to this great woman’s home in Christchurch, New Zealand (before that wonderful time capsule was damaged by the terrible earthquake). I threw myself, in high school, into learning how to conjugate all the tenses in Latin of the verb to love — amo amās amat amā́mus amā́tis amant — and I loved being able to master whole swaths of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars in the original Latin: “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.”
Today I would have been diagnosed with something to be treated, but then I was just called smartypants by my detractors, ordinary by my overachieving classmates in the special program for kids like me, a wise ass by my parents (and usually disrespectful by my Mom, who would have preferred more party dresses and less reading after lights out), and very funny by my closest friends. There was great comfort in knowing everything about something and in having the time to learn everything about something at a time when the rate of knowledge creation and the pace of knowledge sharing was on a human scale.
But fast forward to today, and it’s a wonder that any of us are still sane. I can’t remember the last time that I felt on top of anything, let alone everything, and I’ve got very well-developed learning and work habits, not to mention being a speed-reader. Once I had a manageable list of wonderful friends with whom I was in pretty frequent contact; now I’ve got a much larger list of wonderful friends with whom I struggle to stay in contact. And that’s entirely separate from the Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, Facebook “friends,” and all manner of total strangers who (and this may be entirely in my own mind) expect some level of particpation from me on a regular basis.
I used to know the architectures, functionality, and data designs of all the significant HRM enterprise software vendors (long about 1990), not to mention everyone who was anyone in our industry. I used to be able to take briefings once or twice a year with all of these vendors and feel pretty on top of what they were doing. And I used to skim a dozen or so industry news sources weekly, reading carefully anything that hit a nerve, and actually stayed on top of current HRM and IT thinking. But now there’s so much content created daily that it’s impossible to skim let alone read everything that’s relevant. And there’s little or no soak time, those wonderful hours of contemplation when the pieces swirl around for a bit and then go together like a child’s puzzle into one of those moments of clarity about something that matters.
Now there are hundreds of HR technology products and services vendors vying for air time, face time, market and product differentiation, and their management teams deserve a fair hearing if only there were time. There are far too many conferences, summits, online discussion forums, and every flavor of Webinar, well beyond what anyone can possible attend or participate in, and you may well miss the most important nugget by not being there. Information has exploded, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the many channels through which it reaches us or we must seek it out, and we’re drowning. All of us.
Well, I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed, tired of not knowing everything and everyone I should, tired of trying to monitor all of the relevant news sources and activity streams, TIRED! So I’m striking a blow for freedom and cutting myself some slack. I’m making peace with not knowing everything that I should, following everyone who’s relevant, connecting with all of you, commenting on every blog I read or in every LinkedIn group to which I below, reading all the wonderful HRM and IT posts/articles, clicking through every interesting link on Twitter, etc. And I suggest that all of you do the same. Then when we meet, you won’t feel bad if I don’t quite know who you are or what you do or why we need yet one more applicant tracking system.