We all know that we are generating and receiving more information then ever. Good thing? I like to think so, but sometimes, you can have too much of even a good thing.
Certainly, information is a strategic asset—its vital to making sound decisions, essential for effective communications, and critical for expanding our thinking, breaking paradigms, predictive analysis, and helping us to innovate.
But when information is too much, too unorganized, too often, or too disruptive, it’s value is diminished and organizations and individuals suffer negative effects.
Here are some information stats to scare from Harvard Business Review (September 2009):
- 60%–Those who checked email in the bathroom (and 15% even admitted to checking it while in church)
- 20—Average hours per week spent by knowledge workers on email
- 85%–Computer users who would take a laptop on vacation
- 1/3–Emails considered unnecessary
- 300—Number of emails executive get a day
- 24—Minutes for worker to recover from being interrupted by an email notification
- 40—Number of websites employees visit on an average day
- 26%—People who want to delete all emails (declare “e-mail bankruptcy”) and start over
- 3—Number of minutes before knowledge workers switch tasks
- ~$1 trillion—Cost to economy of information overload
- 85%—Emails opened within 2 minutes
- 27%—Amount of workday eaten up by interruptions
- 2.8 trillion gigabytes—Size of digital information by 2011
- 31%—Workers whose quality of life is worsened by email
Some interesting antidotes offered by HBR:
- Balance—weigh cost-benefits before sending another email
- Reply to all—disable the reply all button
- Five sentences—keep email to 5 sentences or less
- Allots—affix virtual currency from a fixed daily amount to email based on its importance
- IM Savvy—program by IBM that senses when you are busy by detecting your typing patterns and tells would be interrupters that you are busy
- BlackBerry Orphans—to regain the attention of their parents, children are flushing their parent’s BlackBerries down the toilet
While the issues and proposed assists for information overload are thought provoking (and somewhat humorous), what is fascinating to me is how technology and the speed of its advancement and adoption are positively, but also—less spoken about—negatively affecting people and organizations.
It seems like life keeps accelerating—faster and faster—but the quality is deteriorating in terms of fuzzy boundaries between work-life, weakening of our closest relationships, burn-out of our best and hardest working people, and unrealistic expectations of people to be always on—just like the email account that keeps spitting out new messages.
Somewhere along the line, we need to hit the proverbial “reset button” and recognize that information and communication are truly strategic assets and as such need to be used intelligently and with good measure or else we risk cheapening their use and limiting their effectiveness.