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Scanning How-To's

A bedrock function of anticipation is scanning. It’s effective exposure to information that advises you on the future. You need to filter the chaff and recognize the important. You also internalize the knowledge gained. If you get insights from print – paper or pixels – you must comprehend and absorb. You call on those insights to determine how and when to act.

I teach courses in leadership development on forward-looking and anticipatory habits. When course attendees encounter "scanning” they assume that the “internalizing” involves “skimming” a lot of stuff in our text-heavy organizational environments. That might be part of the process. But it helps to think about a range of technique to sort through information. Here are some hands-on tips for dealing with text-heaviness. They involve some new labels and processes.

Ronald P. Carver is a professor of educational psychology who hypothesizes levels of reading to practice when filtering for the most important information and insights. His work is seminal to this technique.

Scanning (his specific term, not the subject of this post) – moving through text at 600 words per minute. That’s pretty fast. Getting through this entire post in less than 30 seconds. Not reading. Looking for keywords, signals that trigger higher awareness or the need to delve into the subject matter.

Skimming – slightly slower at 450 wpm, skipping through paragraphs or passages to get a bit more of a sense of the underlying idea or concept being presented.

Rauding – what we do when reading literary fiction or long letters. Reading every word but also gaining the bulk of meaning and context. This provides another level of filtration. Does what you’re looking at reinforce what you already know? If it doesn’t provide new insight then this is as deep as you need to go.

Reading – what you’re used to. And what I advise for material that you want to internalize and use.

The next time you work on a volume of material use these techniques. Start by scanning, moving through big chunks. When your radar triggers move to skimming and maybe even "rauding." Finished with that piece? Back to scanning. Think of it as zooming in and out on the material. As with any technique, make it your own. Experiment. Vary your approach. But keep it up until it's a habit. Add to your repertoire.

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash
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