Hope You Don’t Mind the Interruption, But…

It’s funny.  Hardly a day goes by that a journalist or CIO type doesn’t interrupt me about the problem of interruptions and information overload.  It’s not surprising.  Back in 2005, we calculated that interruptions cost the U.S. economy $588 billion per annum, based on the 2.1 hours per day that each knowledge worker loses to unnecessary interruptions and recovery time.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Interruptions and recovery time are just part of the problem of information overload.  Too much stuff.  Content (which could be Web content, e-mail, text messages, instant messages, wikis, Weblogs, the list goes on and on) flying at you nonstop.  Most of it isn’t urgent nor important, and we could probably do without a lot of it to begin with.  But even with today’s advanced technologies, we are unable to filter out what we absolutely don’t need to see.

Innately, most knowledge workers are aware of it on some level.  Eva Leonard, knowledge worker extraordinaire and editor-in-chief of Business Traveler magazine, just told me that “it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.”

But few people are doing anything about it and fewer still are aware of how deeply it impacts their organizations.  When a company has tens of thousands of employees, information overload can cost billions as it limits innovation and discovery, and disrupts knowledge work.  In the forefront are people like Max Christoff, an executive director in Morgan Stanley’s Information Technology department, and Nathan Zeldes, at Intel.  Both are in the process of examining ways of lessening the negative impact of information overload on their organizations.

We at Basex haven’t been sitting still on the issue.  For the past month, practically everyone here has been involved in research relating to information overload.

The fruits of our labor?  A new research report:  Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.

Next week we’ll be announcing a Multi-Client Study for Information Overload Strategies.  Stay tuned.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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