The awareness problem

The other day I gave a lecture about Information Overload at a technology conference. Afterward a number of attendees approached me to discuss it. I asked one of them – himself employed at a technology company – whether the extent of the problem in his workplace was as bad as I described it in general, and he asserted that it certainly was; no surprise there. But then he remarked that although he lives with the problem every day, my lecture was the first time he gave thought to this matter from this interesting and different angle… he was referring to the manifold aspects of the impact on knowledge worker  productivity, such as the longer time to execute tasks or the reduction in creativity engendered by constant interruptions.

This was a glimpse of a problem I think is fairly widespread – many organizations live with IO while being in a sort of denial about its impact on their actual business. Most everyone feels the immediate effect on their stress level and quality of life, but they don’t make the leap to realize that work output suffers as well.

I think that is one key area where we of the IORG can be of use – to raise awareness of what is really going on. If they don’t understand what it’s costing them, businesses will be unlikely to assign resources to fixing the IO problem!

What do you think?


  1. I think information overload is toxic not only to the working and relatively creative processes but also to the our psychology; particularly to fresh out of college people that are young and inexperienced. I’m not even going to go into the whole freelancing area, because THAT for young and inexperienced in the IO of the digital age, is near impossible. Information excess impends one’s focus that lifts all existing sidebars and “blinds” you. So if you dont open your eyes in time and let it go on for too long, you’ll be lucky to have a nervous breakdown, realize what’s going on and move on. Worst case – you’ll be depressed with irrational thoughts, that you’ll also be googling in cyberchondriac compulsions and making the information overload even worse.

    As for the professional take on the information overload – it made be against freedom of speech. the information overload is not only the fault of sharing attribute of digital age but also the freedom of speech and action. Internet filters absolutely nothing.

    However, since it is unlikely that we’ll be able to turn this around – educational institutions such as higher education (unis, colleges, etc.) and perhaps even MIDDLE and HIGH schools should implement a new subject like “information management”.

  2. Nathan,

    Based on years in education, I think that IO turns out to be a critical component of why K-12 and some of college education is broken. Many experts focus on what teachers should do and what they need to learn. Meanwhile, the real problem is too much “information” that has a very low signal to noise ratio.

    It’s very much “the less is more” problem.

  3. Hi Nathan.

    I think most people have been living with the problem of information overload for so long that they are unable to put their finger on it. Until someone raises their awareness about it and exposes the potential damages to themselves and their businesses.

    Would you be able to share the material you used for the lecture you gave? Or perhaps the sources you’ve used to put it together?



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