Reducing Information Pollution
During May 2018, Nathan Zeldes (President) described the mission and benefits provided from IORG.
Each month IORG will present a Steering Committee member or other individuals addressing challenging issues and potential solutions to IO.
IORG homepage and social media will provide specific details for forthcoming webinars.
Daniel Levitan’s book: The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (Dutton/Penguin 2014) describes in Chapters 2 & 3 how the mental processes for encoding, organizing and retrieving accepted information can increase or decrease your cognitive load for information processing.
The content is more than replacing a formal taxonomy with your personal folksonomy.
Marty B. #IORGforum
One definition of information is the degree of uncertainty reduction.
How much information do you need to gather to achieve an acceptable confidence level that you have sufficient information to make a judgment or decision?
Herb Simon made a distinction between optimization and satisfaction. Similarly, an inverted U curve for amount of information gathered suggests that too much information creates an excessive cognitive processing load. Of course, other factors enter into your information gathering behavior, e.g., economic loss function for an incorrect judgment or decision, position of the person(s) in the organization to whom this recommendation is sent, diagnosticity of the information content.
Do you ask yourself explicitly if you have or have not gathered a sufficient amount of valuable information or are you compulsively attempting to conduct an exhaustive search?
Don’t permit this cause for information overload to be self-inflicted.
Marty Bariff, IORG Treasurer posting blogs during May.
It’s the last day of IORGLiveMonth today, a great experience for me, one month where I could look into Information Overload and having to talk about it connected several dots, opened my mind to some of the little details that matter, some of the little behavioral patterns that we all do and observe, that start in good will but eventually provide more troubles than benefits.
Patterns like using the “reply to all button”, or like checking our phone when we are talking to someone, or like thinking about what we have to say next, rather than listening.
We do a lot by inertia, we go on as we are used to, is it the right thing to do? Of course if we were challenging everything around us, we would just spend time changing, so we need to prioritize where to bing our attention and upgrade step by step. What IORG and IORGLiveMonth tries to say is that it’s worth to dedicate our attention on reducing information overload.
This because communication takes everyday the biggest part of our work in an office and if we are overloaded we work worse than we could, we share worse than we could, we produce less than we could and we might end up just unnecessarily frustrated.
To fight communication inertia we need to challenge the way we do it and a good opportunity to change is given by what I call open business aka “working openly by sharing information on tools and channels that allow open collaboration with your whole organization and team.”
What it takes is:
1 A change of behavior, openly share what we do and what we need instead of doing it only in closed groups (see the beer tale), openly ask and answer, openly comment and contribute to the common knowledge.
2 The knowledge of available tools (many of what are free to be used).
3 The flexibility and willingness to try and challenge your peers in following your lead.
4 Our autopilot switched off as much as possible.
What you will get back?
1 Much more engagement for you and your peers, you will suddenly feel part of a bigger community, you will be more useful, give and get more ideas.
2 Much less time for your work, no more time waste due to miscommunication or over communication.
3 Better collaboration.
4 More knowledge or tools and different practices.
5 Increase of personal branding, due to more reach of your ideas and more options to share good collaboration practices.
6 Reduction of information overload.
7 Fun in the process.
Think about it, after having tried, in the worst case scenario you will have at least passed your message with the same effectiveness as you were doing before trying. So nothing to loose in the process.
Thanks a lot for watching and following and get ready because IORG will start proposing from May several new live events engaging guests and practitioners from all around the world.
The third week passed and I knew it would bring some controversial topics and new perspectives on what can cause information overload and how to reduce it.
Once we recognize the existence of information overload and we attribute to it several unpleasant consequences like stress, lack of focus, time waste, low productivity, miscommunication, bad collaboration…, we cannot avoid to focus on some good practices to reduce it. And so we go with e-mail best practices, appropriate tools to be used, hints and tips about how to cooperate together more fruitfully or automated business solutions to save our time.
What I think is that in all of this we miss the main source of it, the core generator of information that’s our mind.
Our minds are the ones evaluating a reply to an e-mail, are the ones deciding what to say in a conversation and how to prioritize our tasks. We do all of this everyday during our working journey and we clash with other minds in the need to collaborate to produce fruitful things together.
If these minds though are not aware of their actions and consequences, if they are not enough mindful about information overload then we first will produce it for others and for ourselves: all those e-mails we send, all those meetings we take part with our minds elsewhere, all those conversations we miss because we look into our devices and all those relationships we don’t grow because we just think about the final goal instead of the way how this goal is achieved.
The good news is that we can train our minds, pretty much as we are doing with out bodies in the gym, to pay more attention to what we do so that we can be more focused, more collaborative, better communicators, handle better our time and eventually do all of this optimizing the information flow.
First of all a healthy daily practice (discussed on Day 16-17), few minutes are enough, closing our eyes, paying attention on our senses, on our breath, on the thoughts arising. You can watch ThePresentShow to get more informations about it or download any mindfulness app like Headspace or Smiling Mind or Calm.
Such practice helps to tune our minds more often into an awareness state (meta awareness), awareness of us living in the present rather than wandering in past of future thoughts not relevant to what we are doing in that moment.
Then it’s important to bring this awareness into our everyday working life, learning to think before sending any of our messages (day 18) so to choose the most appropriate channel to improve collaboration and avoid future possible overload. We should identify when we need to STOP (day 19), if we are doing two things at the same time, or if we cannot handle a coming request, focusing on one single task we will do it better and often we don’t notice until late when we were doing something and thinking about something else.
Self information overload is also cause of stress, we identify it particularly when we feel busy (day 21) and we cannot focus, we cannot sleep, and we do anything much less efficiently. Yet we linger in that feeling without seeing that in reality it’s just in our minds and by doing one task after another we will progress anyway regardless on how many of these task are awaiting for us on the line.
To avoid busyness just pay attention to it and you will find it’s not there really.
Another good practice to prevent it is to avoid automation (day 20), reminders, notifications, anything that prevents you to think, plan and clearly organize your time.
Write down your todo list, make sure you switch off all your notifications and then come back to them when you have time for them. You are in the control, be mindful about that control and they will not overload you.
Mindfulness is not the only answer, it’s however a very good solution, a great and simple training, and healthy practice for our minds.
All simply just by learning to pay attention.
Thanks a lot for watching the third week, you can find here all the playlist http://bit.ly/iorglivemonth
Looking forward for the final one that start tomorrow about open business.
The second week of #IORGLiveMonth just finished a great journey for me so far in sharing my experiences and reflections with all of you and at the same time building a video library or hints and tips that will be accessible by everyone for the time to come.
I don’t expect to bring absolute truths or solutions on the table but my observations are true and my proposed tips and behavioral changes are tested, first of all, on myself and direct experience. I’d really like to hear your point of view and opinions about it.
I think conversations are really important, they are for me particularly because my #noemail journey landed exactly there, in a field where to get things done I had to reach out directly to my peers, engaging them in conversations rather than hiding myself under a TO a SUBJECT and a BODY.
I often collect all requests received from my peers, met them face to face, addressed one by one. I usually get so much more information and eventually several tasks are solved straight away, many more get accomplished with much more balance, promptness and ease from both parties.
To have the right conversations, to get deeply in the collaboration spirit, we need first to notice all distractions around us starting from our devices and laptops (discussed on Day 8), eternal sources of notifications and #thingstodoexactlywhenweareintheneedtofocusonsomethingelse .
We probably noticed that even if we put aside notifications and devices it’s our approach towards multitasking that can again come in the way (discussed on Day 11) so that we get that sudden desire to check something without reflecting on prioritization.
Ok now let’s assume we are great single-taskers and we don’t bring devices around, there is still the risk to cause information overload in the way we communicate.
If we don’t base our conversations on trust (Day 14), for example we will need additional information to be sent to us after we already discussed something and if we tend to procrastinate (delaying that quick conversation to a further time) we will be in the need of further communication, mostly to repeat the same drafter points, a promotion of additional information overload (Day 13).
New technologies, mostly free, can help us: video communication is nowadays the perfect channel for a conversation when we cannot all be in the same location, it can be recorded, reviewed, shared and it’s very easy to do from any device (Day9). Of course technology shouldn’t come in our way and we should be ready for videos chat ensuring we can provide good quality sound and image having pre-installed and well known apps.
Video conversations can be also shared on a blogpost together with a good simple and clear text, this will enhance our capability to share information, will reduce overload avoiding repeated questions on the same topic. A blog will also increase our potential reach to unknown branches of our network (Day 10).
Last but not least, the quality of our communication should be taken under serious consideration, the simpler and the clearer we craft our messages, the less information overload we will cause through any type of channel. This will require us to pay attention at the creation of the message and further care about the receivers of our communication (Day 12).
Conversations have never been so supported and powerful like nowadays in human history, considering all technology have, accessibility to knowledge and freedom to discuss with anyone in our organizational chart.
It’s such a pity that in many occasions we just focus on our desired outcomes and even our collective failures are almost never seen as caused by an improper use of our communication skills and information overload is then considered as a necessary part of they way do do things today.
Our scapegoats? Unproductivity, lack of time, stress, incompetence: in reality it’s just lack of attention on the way we communicate and information overload can be avoided.
Communication is everything in our nowadays working environment, let’s make it right. A way for us to do it is to learn to control our minds and emotional reactions, this opens the doors into mindfulness practice, that’s going to be topic of the coming week.
Thanks a lot for watching #IORGLiveMonth http://bit.ly/iorglivemonth
In the first week of IORGLiveMonth that you can watch here http://bit.ly/iorglivemonth from Day 1 to 7 you can see as common denominator one basic concept: e-mail is not anymore a necessary tool to do our job.
On the contrary, learning to collaborate using other channels will definitively help us becoming more productive, spending less time and drastically reducing information overload.
Going noemail (or “less email”) is a very simple straightforward process:
It starts by paying attention to the incoming messages on our inbox.
In the moment when we have to reply to them, STOP and think about what would be the best channel to send it.
Is it really e-mail the best? Could I pick up the phone? Do I need to collaborate real time? Would a video chat be more creative and provide an immediate solution?
Think before sending is the new motto of the end information overload citizen.
For those few use cases where you still need to send it via e-mail, adopt some behavior that are reducing information overload.
Avoid sending attachments but use file hosting tools to add and share your files and folders.
Avoid adding people on CC, majority will thank you for that.
Avoid the Reply to All button, just provide your replies to whom you address the message.
Consider that anytime that there is more than one person in the need to know, it’s might be the case for a different kind of collaboration that definitively is not going to be suitable for e-mail communication.
Take some time to plan your communication in advance. Test, try and learn new tools, engage your peers in using them, create those containers where the future communications and collaborations will take place.
Do it for yourself: learning, personal branding, better collaboration and less time spent in getting mad with technology.
Do it for your peers: the whole collaborative process will go much more smoothly than what’s happening now.
Enjoy the process and share your findings.
Thanks a lot for watching week 1, thanks for giving it a try, thank for the reduction of information overload that already started since point ONE of this post 😁
Week 2 is about to start and it’a all about conversation.
It’s been a while I’m not using e-mails, 5 years since July 2013 and even before I started gladly advocating different forms of collaboration to avoid overused channels.
That’s where I got to meet IORG, Nathan Zeldes and all great professionals and researchers that with me share the same disappointment around the way we naturally ended up communicating between each other.
I feel the main driver of it, is a lack of education from our institutions and corporates. Nobody told us that mobile phone notifications were addictive and that our internal chemical reactions (see dopamine) is playing with us in a way that keeps us there, waiting for the next stimulus to come.
We end up looking at our inbox in average more than 70 times a day, holding our mobile phones in our hands while we are having conversations and keep checking them while we are back at home with our families and kids. Then social networks came into the picture giving us many more options to keep being anxious and distracted.
How can we get out of that addictive loop, how can we avoid distractions during our days, what are the best hints, tips and methodologies?
Nobody knows for sure, there are many suggestions, many good habits and practices and each one of IORG members has their own favorite. You will be able to get them all in the coming months.
In April I’ll share my personal observations and ideas, wishing my experience to be helpful to many of you dear readers and watchers.
I chose to dedicate the month of April to live videos, that I’ll publish into the IORG Youtube channel http://bit.ly/iorglivemonth
Live, unedited monologues of myself going through different topics.
Live because it’s more transparent, it’s more personal and genuine. I’m not a researcher, I’m a communication professional that works in a big corporation so what you will see in #LeleIORGMonth are my thoughts and intuitions after several years of love for collaboration.
Each week of April 2018 will have its chapter in chronological order:
Looking forward to share and please make sure to tune here for the live broadcast http://bit.ly/LeleIORGLive
or here below you will be able day by day to see the playlist growing.
Enjoy and thank you!
To get in touch with me click here
When I started working on mitigating Information Overload at Intel, back in the mid-90s, it was all about email overload, and the solutions we worked on then were all about how to send less and better email, sort and process incoming email faster and more sensibly, and – once we figured out the underlying cultural causes – improving norms and expectations within the organization. Nobody even considered Mindfulness then…
But recent years have seen a rapid change in the public’s awareness of Mindfulness in general, and this is fast moving into the info overload space. Just Google “Information overload and mindfulness”! People are realizing that mindfulness and meditation techniques are useful components in the battle on the hijacking of our focus and attention by the incessant incursion of messages and social media. It’s a good trend, and I recommend you pay attention to it.
Three friends of IORG are particularly active in this matter:
Recently I was invited to give a keynote lecture at the XV International Conference on University Libraries in Mexico City last month. The conference was dedicated to the changing role of university libraries, and their place in the United Nations’ “Agenda 2030” program. My lecture, titled “Libraries and Knowledge in the Age of Information Overload”, took a close look at the impact of today’s pervasive state of Information Overload on the academic library, and vice versa.
Preparing this lecture was a fascinating experience for me, as was the knowledge exchange at the conference. Libraries, after all, had served as key vehicles for the dissemination of knowledge since ancient times, yet today far more knowledge than we could ever process is available online. Who needs libraries, then?
The conclusions I reached are that libraries will definitely retain their relevance, but their role is already changing. Rather than maximize access to information, they need to help their users filter knowledge, weeding out the fake and the irrelevant and helping them apply the latest techniques – including those enabled by computer science – to home in on what they really need. And amusingly, one reason students and faculty flock to their university library is to seek refuge from information overload – even when the information is accessible from the outside, the library provides a haven from distractions that is very precious.
You can read my report about all this in an article I published, accessible here.
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