Twice this month, I’ve had someone ask me about how to deal with information overload (i.e. get rid of it). I consider this the equivalent of people who, back in the early 1990s, tried to deal with(i.e. avoid using) a PC. My first job in I.T. included one very clear directive from the managing director: ¨don’t you dare put a computer on my desk, give it to my secretary¨. He fully intended to retire before having to learn how to use one. Seemed bonkers to me. I daren’t ever admit to suffering information overload in front of the next generation for fear of being seen in the same light.

Information overload is a potential risk when you are connected to the Internet. Just like getting calorie overload is a potential risk when your mouth is connected to food. If you’re worried about overload, you can always stop consuming. (I could start making comments about going to the gym, but that was sooo yesterday’s post). Trouble is, the digital natives are like those annoying people who claim to eat whatever they want and never gain weight. Information overload appears to be an age-related problem…

One of the side-effects of Web 2.0 technologies has been a disruption in the relationship between customers and suppliers, led by the digital natives. The suppliers who are benefitting are those who serve the new dynamic. The ones suffering are those building walls to try and protect their legacy. Gerry McGovern highlighted this effect in a recent news letter – How I came to love Ryanair: (my comments in brackets)

Ryanair is a product of the Web. The Web customer is more cynical, skeptical and impatient. They love to compare and are out for a good deal. (That means they go hunting for more information.) The Web strips away a lot of the marketing hype and advertising illusions that TV and print love to feed us.

Life isn’t all rosy for Ryanair mind. They’ve been spanked by the Office of Fair Trading and forced to shut their web site for 3 days. They have already put out a profit warning for this year. And we haven’t even left February yet. But the mix of old and new in the airline industry appears to have created an industry able (else forced) to change. Pity the music industry couldn’t manage to do the same.

Before you worry about information overload, worry that the next generation has no idea what your problem is…

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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Yesterday I attended a Forrester workshop: "Enterprise 2.0: Web 2.0 Dresses Up For the Enterprise". They made a nice distinction between email and Wiki/RSS. Email should be seen as the "To Do" tool and Wiki/RSS should be seen as the "To Know" tool. Enterprises are starting to look at how they can uses Wikis/RSS feeds as part of their knowledge management strategy – how do we share and disseminate knowledge without overloading the knowledge worker? Subscribing to content using RSS means I'm in control and if I don't like what I'm seeing or it's irrelevant, then I can always hit the unsubscribe button. The trouble with email is once I give out my email address it's not so easy to stop the bombardment – even with spam filters…

  2. I think wikis are a great KM tool – arguably better than many past attempts at structured KM databases. One caveat is not to consider them a labour-saving device (i.e. don't mix KM and productivity). Wikis work best with moderators to help ensure content is accurate. The benefits of a wiki include transparency, making it much easier to spot and correct misinformation. But somebody needs to do the spotting and correcting :-)The distinction between choosing to subscribe to an RSS feed versus having to submit your email address is a nice one – I might just pinch that example for the next workshop :-)Thanks for your comments!

  3. Information Overload doesn't have to be a problem. I am using a great tool that summerises documents, emails and webpages (even blogs). Unlike some of the other tools I have tried this software really does summarise in context. Why spend time reading paragraphs of information when there is software out there that will give you the core sentences in a couple of seconds.If anyone is interested the website is is also some very useful software programs all around information and project management.Andy

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