Monday, 22 December 2008

Information Overload

How individuals respond to the communication overload issue varies dramatically from person to person and organization to organization. In some cases every communication is operational and actionable. There’s no sense of overload here and any redundant or irrelevant material is rigorously excluded. Typically this might be a military or strictly hierarchical operationally focused service delivery company. This is a controlled and directive working environment.

At the other end of the spectrum is the media or consultancy sector, for example, where the flow of information is open, uncontrolled and can be experienced as overwhelming. It’s in this environment that I think we can discover a strategy for survival.

People in this sector regard information as their working medium. They select what they want from a virtually infinite variety of sources creating for themselves a bespoke set of communication lines which are specifically tailored to their needs. They pick and choose what they need and what is relevant. They are effectively a self-segmenting audience in technical communication terms. I think these two dimensions highlight essential factors in the 'information overload' debate.

There’s a gap between the “push” side of communications - the transmission mode; and the creation of a “pull” culture where people are supported in taking ownership of their own information needs. As communicators, we should recognize the evolving digital media world as our new operating environment. In a bid to gain organizational transparency, we need to change our perception of what an information-rich environment really means for individuals and organisations.

Perhaps we need to devote more time to helping people understand that an infinite flux of information is not necessarily an intimidating overload, but a unique opportunity that can be grasped with enthusiasm and energy. It is the way the world is today and we can choose to be fearful or we can adopt a positive and self-determined attitude. An attitude that says we as individuals are responsible for the information we consume. We are in control and we can take our pick.

1 comment:

kanter said...

I've just come across some research that talks about the differences in people's brains by generation and their ability to absorb information. It comes down to how generations that grew up with the Internet and have spent time interacting with information on the screen - how they can deal with more information. I thought that was interesting.