Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Fire Hose of Information

My interest was immediately piqued by the startling title -- "Don't You Dare Email This Story" -- of this article in The Wall Street Journal.

The article is about information overload. No surprises there, as we're overloaded with information at every turn from colleagues, friends, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, with news articles, blogs and so on and so on. We can't seem to take a vacation during which we can completely disconnect, often because of the fear of even more overload when we return relaxed and refreshed.

The reporter begins her article with this stat:
"Information workers, who comprise about 63% of the U.S. work force, are each bombarded with 1.6 gigabytes of information on average every day through emails, reports, blogs, text messages, calls and more, according to preliminary data from a report coming later this year, an update of the 2003 "How Much Information?" report."

But it gets more interesting as reporter Andrea Coombes writes:
"U.S. companies lose an estimated $900 billion a year in lost productivity because of information overload, according to Basex, a research and consulting firm."

Wait, what? We have so much information, it is making us unproductive. Geesh. Didn't you think it was supposed to do the opposite? I mean, our competitors can't catch us off guard because we're reading the same things they are every day; and we're always on the bleeding edge of industry trends, because we know what everyone is doing and thinking every minute. If only that was the case.

Instead, a lot of this great 'content' out there is just noise. Not all of it; there's lots of important, successful thought leaders saying and writing valuable things. But we have to weed through it all - separate the weak from the chaff. It isn't easy to do. Tools can help.

This WSJ reporter gives suggestions, and there are some valuable tips in there.

I've found that sharing links, sites, articles and an occasional IM session to get status updates with my colleagues on our wiki that functions as our intranet works wonders.

What works for you?