29 July 2022

How to manage your Knowledge effectively (during an MBA and beyond) – the Second Brain Methodology

Author: Davide Ritorto – International Part Time MBA student

Anything you want to accomplish, from executing a project at work to getting a new job, learning a new skill, and starting a business, requires finding and putting the right information to use.

Have you ever felt the sensation of having fragmented notions and concepts in your mind (even about a specific topic) that are totally unconnected with each other? How often have you struggled to recall even one useful takeaway from the last lecture you attended or the last TEDx video you saw?

Well, considering the flood of information that we receive daily via the media and other information sources, this could happen very easily.

Let me ask you, what percentage of the notions you have read/listened to/watched yesterday do you remember in a way that allows you to use them in the future? The answer would surely be less than 10%.

If we want to get the most out of the things we learn on a daily basis, this information needs to be managed and structured somehow.

This applies especially, if you, like me, are attending (or you are planning to attend) an MBA. Believe me, the takeaways and the truly useful concepts you want to take home with you from a weekend of lectures (for the Part-Time format), will be more than a few.

Now, it’s time to acknowledge that we can’t “use our head” to store everything we need to know, and that we could outsource the job of remembering to technology. The human brain, indeed, is designed to create ideas, to connect dots, to process information, not to remember it all. (https://medium.com/the-mission/human-brains-arent-designed-to-remember-things-1074365f0da2)

Taking notes! If this is your answer, well, I believe that you are halfway there and I will help you understand why. Only taking notes without having a structured way to have access to them and reuse them, is almost useless.

This is where a Second Brain comes in. Almost a year ago, I discovered this methodology, designed by Tiago Forte (one of the world’s foremost experts on productivity) and I am now using it as a crucial tool during my International MBA Journey at POLIMI GSoM.

Building a Second Brain is about creating a reliable system – outside your physical skin-and-bone bodily boundaries – for storingorganisingconnecting, and eventually transforming information into Good Creative Output

I personally use Obsidian as a tool for this, and here is why I mentioned the verb “connecting”:




This is my current Second Brain map. I know, it seems quite a Black Mirror thing.

These tools, like Obsidian and Roam Research, allow you to easily connect the notes you take, based on the “touch-points” with one another.

Here’s where things get interesting. When you begin to interact more with your knowledge base, you’ll begin to notice a growing number of connections. These links could be based on the same macro-area or projects, such as Cats or NFTs, or your next vacation spot. I will show you an example:

This is the mind map I get if I filter for the tag Strategy. These are all the notes that I have taken during this year of using this tool. Each dot (node) is a page on Obsidian that I have created. The bigger the node, the higher the number of backlinks (connections) that it contains.

Now, imagine the possible benefits that you can find by having access to a structured knowledge base like this.

If, for example, you want to write an article, make a presentation or start a new project concerning a certain topic that you have studied in the past, in this way you can easily extract all the information you need from your Second Brain.

Furthermore, this system also allows you to uncover unexpected patterns and connections to improve your thinking and to reduce stress and anxiety, knowing that all your ideas and insights are preserved.

The same can be applied to the note-taking process during an MBA lecture, for example. The picture above shows what I “unintentionally” (I mean just by tagging keywords), created when I attended the (very insightful) Financial Accounting class with Professor Davide Chiaroni.

I now have an organised way to go back and regain all the information I had learned about Financial Accounting. For all my classmates who asked me what the weird purple things on my note-taking app were, here’s the explanation.

As I mentioned, this system was designed by Tiago Forte, and his course is also available online (not for free). Anyway, you can find tons of tutorial videos on YouTube on how to easily create and structure this system for your Personal Knowledge Management. I warn you, as with all new habits, at the beginning it takes time, effort and persistence.

A small piece of advice: don’t start trying to record and take note of every piece of information you interact with. Part of this methodology also consists in curating the data you acquire by determining whether or not they have all the prerequisites to be in your repository. Quality, not quantity.

Here you can also find a very well done (and free) extract about Tiago Forte’s course: https://maggieappleton.com/basb

P.S. Also, this article was written by organizing all the information on Second Brain that I had on my Second Brain 

29 July 2022

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