Through the next several blog posts, I'll explore how this idea of "actionable content" serves a purpose, how that purpose is changing, why it's so difficult to formulate and different ways to create the desired effect. For starters, here are seven problems that beg for actionable content.
Inert content: Sometimes we deliver content that only applies to the content itself. We foster encyclopedic knowledge of a subject area that only pertains to further study of itself. We dish out what Alfred North Whitehead called "inert ideas".
In the history of education, the most striking phenomenon is that schools of learning, which one epoch are alive with a ferment of genius, in a succeeding generations exhibit mere pedantry and routine. The Aims of Education 1929Hypocritical content: We tell people to do something that is the opposite of our conduct. We cannot walk our own talk or provide an example of our advice. We lose credibility because we are merely preachy. We are full of what to say and bereft of what to do differently, more effectively and toward particular results.
Excessive content: We can make a thing of becoming inundated with too much information. We end up twice as smart as we act and say to ourselves "I knew better than to do that". We get so preoccupied with knowing more, we disconnect what we know from how we act. We expect to change ingrained habits by being well informed and then fail to do anything differently.
Abstract content: We can give others content that is taken out of context. It seems unrelated to a context where it could be applied to problems, conflicts or opportunities. It's disconnected from contexts of meaning, relevance, significance. They say "we understand the words, but not what it has to do with anything".
Expert content: We can dwell on being authoritative and fail to hand off our expertise. We can make the right answer seem too demanding, complicated or out-of-reach for others to take ownership of it. We come across as self-righteous, ego maniacal or pompous. We inadvertently silence their voices and dismiss alternative perceptions. We impose modernism on subjective, post-modern sensibilities.
Trivial content: We can prepare others for quiz shows and board games like Trivial Pursuit. We celebrate knowing facts as accumulated possessions. We foster the materialistic acquisition of bigger inventories and abundant collections of information artifacts.
Pseudo-actionable content: We can give people things to do that do no good. We set up people for pointless exercises. We pretend it's valuable to go through the motions with no lasting effect. We take time to waste their time with mere busywork. We show people how to look productive while accomplishing nothing of significance.
What are you supposed to do with that information? Recognize where you're having any of these seven problems. Consider whether actionable content has the potential to solve any of these problems. Wonder why there's still a need for actionable content if it's already clear it would solve these problems.