Computerworld ran an article title “Information overload: Is it time for a data diet?” which got me to thinking. Now as anyone who knows me will agree, that can be a dangerous thing. But after thinking about it for a bit, I’m fairly certain that information overload is a crock!
My whole career has been based on managing data and producing information and, as such, the whole notion of information overload has always intrigued me. The basic premise is that folks seem to think that there is too much information. I’m of the opinion that you can never have enough of information – at least regarding things that truly interest you.
A former boss called me an information bottom-feeder because I always seemed to have a nugget of information or two that applied to her projects and quests. I took that as a compliment (even though I am not sure it was meant as one)!
The Computerworld article raises many of the pertinent issues, citing that “(t)he idea of information overload has been discussed for decades, but never before has it seemed so relevant.” I agree with this statement, and I can relate to the ton of information sources “out there” to contend with. And yes, better technologies to manage and sift through all the data and information would be nice.
But I just cannot bring myself to embrace the concept that there is too much information available. I would rather be overwhelmed with an avalanche of details than to have little to no data available to use for business analysis and decision-making. Can you imagine ever going back to the pre-Web, pre-Google days of actually having to go to a library or pay exorbitant fees to use something like Lexis/Nexus to find relevant information?
Let me put this whole discussion into a different framework. Think about the topic or thing about which you are most passionate. It could be a hobby, a sport, or anything, really. Can you ever get enough information about that topic? Does your day brighten when you happen across a tidbit of information you did not know? If you are a fantasy football nut don’t you dig through every resource available looking at stats and predictions before you pick your team? If you are a collector (coins, stamps, books, etc.), don’t you enjoy scanning through information and tracking down the missing items from your collection?
Myself, I am an avid music fan. I have in excess of 6,000 CDs and albums. I scour the web looking for information about my favorites and trying to fill gaps in my collection. There is no such thing as too much information about these areas… to me. Now your hobby, OK, there is too much information out there about that… see what I mean?
So how can we deal with “information overload?” One key is having the ability to discern quickly what data is applicable to your current needs and to rapidly move through that which does not apply. Another key is to stop looking when you feel comfortable that you have enough information with which to make an intelligent decision. I think many who claim to suffer from “information overload” do not apply these two keys to their information gathering process.
But let’s stop pretending that we don’t want to have all of that information “out there” and available whenever we want it, okay?