2008’s Problem of the Year: Information Overload

OK, so still catching up on the blogging front, but I’m getting there.

At the end of 2007, analyst firm Basex predicted the biggest problem of the year for 2008: Information Overload.  Well, you won’t find any disagreement here – in a world where people continue to be bombarded with more and more pieces of information via more and more different mediums of communication, information overload continues to be the single largest drag on productivity in the business world.

The NY Times and ArsTechnica blogged about some of the specific findings in the Basex research and the broader problem people are facing trying to deal with all this information.

Michael Sampson provided a contrarian viewpoint, claiming that this isn’t "information overload" but simply more complex communication coordination challenges (yeah, I did that on purpose) and that all this communication back and forth is actually what comprises the core of a lot of people’s primary work responsibility. 

While Michael has some valid points, I think they are largely issues of semantics, and he really avoids what I consider the main point.  Many business workers today are simply faced with more inbound information than they can deal with given the tools they have at their disposal to deal with this information.  Yet, these communications, as Michael states, are vital to their work.  That’s what’s behind the $650 Billion drain on productivity that Basex is highlighting, and information overload is a term that defines the problem very succinctly and accurately.

I just posted my email thesis that touches on a number of these points.  There’s no question people face information overload and it’s a major problem for them.  And addressing that problem is going to require new ways to look at information in a broader context across various silos of data and various mediums of communication.  Only when tools (both sender and recipient side) to address the information overload are in place will people really be ready to start thinking about some of the broader knowledge sharing and communication issues Michael mentions.

2 Responses to “2008’s Problem of the Year: Information Overload”

  1. Hi Deva,
    There is no doubt that information overload has been the #1 issue since the Internet explosion.
    However, automated summarization software can provide signinificant help.
    Summarization helps with absorbing large amount of information quickly and without being lost in unnecessary details.
    An example of a powerful summarization tool is Context Organizer from Context Discovery Inc. At a click of the button it instantly finds the most significant content on web pages, in Google search results and in office documents. It is a simple add-in to web browsers and Microsoft Office. If you had a moment to try it out and give me your feedback that would be greatly appreciated.
    Warm regards,
    Context Discovery Inc

  2. Nicolas says:

    Hi Deva,
    I’ve read the $650 billion cost estimate by Basex too, however I think it’s still too low: http://www.managingio.com/2008/02/17/the-real-cost-of-information-overload/
    Comments are welcome!