So, again… writing a first post to a new blog. Small step and all that, but it’s really the quintessential “new beginning”…
First I’m supposed to tell you who I am, so here goes: I’m Nathan Zeldes, an Applied Physicist turned IT Engineer. I’m a Principal Engineer at Intel, and for the past 12 years I’ve been driving R&D in the field of Computing Productivity, that fascinating no man’s land where our nice, crisp computer technology meets the unpredictable, demanding, sometimes vexing yet always precious wetware that is our user base. When I’m not working, I actually manage to program computers for fun, and I have a collection of computing history; you can have a peek at http://www.nzeldes.com .
Information Overload has been my arch-enemy for more than a decade; I identified it as a problem as early as 1995, when Windows-based email first arrived in my workplace and enabled people to send messages with large attachments to large lists with the click of a button. For many years I tried to solve this issue with “First generation” solutions – those involving training, indoctrination, tips and suggestions. It worked well, as far as it can, but there’s a limit to what it can achieve; so more recently I’m working on more advanced solutions, like the “No Email on Friday” pilot that has captured the public’s imagination recently. More on these later.
I define Information Overload, or Infomania as it is informally called at times, as the problem that today’s Information Intensity – the ubiquitous, rapid flow and exchange of information, communications, and the implicit tasks they impose – puts our knowledge workers and managers in a chronic state of anxiety that is exacting a heavy toll on their productivity as employees as well as on their personal well-being. This problem is caused primarily by the combination of two distinct phenomena: one is Queued incoming message overload, and the other is Distractions/interruptions. It is a universal problem: some years ago Fast Company magazine published an article about my work and I subsequently received email from about 100 organizations on four continents, including Fortune 500 giants and tiny partnerships, universities and high schools, municipalities, churches, government offices, charities… all wanting to hear more and sharing the same woeful tale.
I co-founded the Information Overload Research Group, whose blog this is, because I am really passionate about reducing the problem’s impact world wide – not only because that will allow people to be more effective at work, which it certainly will, but also because it will allow them to be happier, and spend more time with their families and doing the things for which they went to work in the first place.
Wish us luck!