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Calculating Information Overload – Find Out Your Organization’s Cost

January 13, 2009 | Posted By Jonathan Spira

A year ago, Basex announced that Information Overload would be the 2008 “Problem-of-the-Year.”  Now that we know that Information Overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year, it appears that it will be 2009′s problem as well.

Whether sitting at a desk in the office, in a conference room, in one’s home office, or at a client, the likelihood of being able to complete a task (what many call “work”) without interruption is nil.  Content creation has gone off the charts and new forms of content are being pushed towards us at an ever increasing pace.  It’s not just e-mail, junk mail, text messages, phone calls, and monthly reports anymore.

Information Overload causes markedly lower productivity, diminished comprehension levels, compromised concentration levels, and less innovation.  According to a recent Basex survey, it also causes health problems: 35% of knowledge workers experience work-related back and/or neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, headaches, or stress related symptoms.

One reason the problem continues unchecked is that few people seem to recognize its cost to their organization.  Last month, to help companies understand the extent of their financial exposure, we released a free, Web-based Information Overload Calculator.  The calculator allows you to calculate the impact of the problem on your own organization.

So far,  thousands of people, in industries ranging from advertising to zoology, have calculated their exposure.  If you haven’t yet calculated your exposure, please fasten your seatbelt and do it now.  You’ll be glad you did.

Jonathan B. Spira is vice president of research at the Information Overload Research Group (IORG) and chief analyst at Basex.

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4 Responses

  1. Michael Josefowicz Says:
    January 13th, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Nice calculator.

    Just curious if anyone done an analysis or have thoughts about easy ways to decide very quickly what can be stored for later retrieval if necessary, but doesn’t have to be read now, thus interrupting work. I know that I use my Google Reader for this function.

    My decision making rule is that the default position is “I don’t have to read this.” It turns out that applies to between 80% to 90%of the feeds, just by scanning headlines.

    My real question is:
    Has anyone mapped the power relations in large organizations and how that creates more IO than is necessary. When I worked in a large formal organization the rule was if it came from a superior the default was it had to be opened and scanned. Usually wasting lots of time and interrupting real work.

  2. Jonathan Spira Says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Thanks Michael. Glad you like it.

    Regarding the question of deciding what can be stored for later retrieval, etc…. that very act of making that decision is enough of an interruption, but no, we haven’t really studied that question. Not sure if anyone else has.

    Your scanning method probably serves you (and many of us) fairly well but given the content explosion, we will always miss important information as well.

    So onto your “real question”: that issue has come up anecdotally in our research but since many organizations have multiple “rules” about what has to be read when and how, we would put most of them in the same bucket for the moment.

    A few years ago, a newspaper reporter told me of an organization where employees in a particular department had to reply to their manager’s e-mails within 15 minutes – or be on the receiving end of a phone call from an angry manager. Members of the department spent a good part of the day checking e-mail so that they would not get yelled at.

  3. Pankaj Says:
    May 20th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    we had recently done a white paper on management of the email deluge. much of the problem stems from using email for “collaborative purposes” – a boss delegating tasks and asking for updates, collaboration on files, managing schedules. a single mail causes a torrent, and youre forever digging through your inbox.

    email is a “push” medium, and you constantly feel like you’re being poked in your ribs to go check your mail. shifting to “pull” collaboration tools (document management, task management, forums) not only relieves the email glut, but also smoothen information management in the organization, and the effectiveness of teams working together.

    you can see the white paper at – http://www.hyperoffice.com/business-email-overload/

    we also have a guest speaker, tech expert James Gaskin from networkworld.com and itworld.com presenting a webinar on the subject on the 28th of May at 2PM EST

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