Feeling overwhelmed by too much information? What else is new? The amount of digital data available on the Web every day reaches records of mind-boggling proportions—now more than a zettabyte (1021 bytes) and presumably accumulating at an ever-increasing rate, estimated at 30-percent growth per year from 1999 to 2002.
There is a wonderful essay in The Hedgehog Review about the promise and perils of information overload. Titled Why Google Isn’t Making Us Stupid…or Smart, this essay written by Chad Wellmon explores the history of information overload and explores its implications. But Wellmon also spends some time demonstrating that information overload is far from a new problem.
Recently my wife and I went on an epic hunt to uncover everything possible about baby formula. We scoured more Web sites than I’d like to admit to and learned about all the options: powder, liquid, milk-based, soy, D.H.A.- and A.R.A.-fortified. (I’m still not clear on what A.R.A. is, exactly.) Then we learned that none of it actually matters. Since the Infant Formula Act of 1980, the F.D.A. makes sure that all formula is pretty much the same, no matter which one you buy.
Almost all executives want more and faster information, and almost all companies are racing to provide it. What many of them overlook, though, is that the real aim should be not faster information but faster decision making — and those aren’t the same things.