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Notes from the Information Overload Awareness Day Inaugural Event

Yesterday’s Information Overload Awareness Day conference no doubt pushed attendees above and beyond the bounds of overload.  As a public service here, I’ll review highlights.  If you missed the event, we plan to make some of the sessions available shortly via MP3.

The first keynote address, by Jonathan Spira, chief analyst here at Basex, presented an overview of the problem, including costs, problem areas, and a few things we can do about the problem right now.

A few key points:

  • The cost of Information Overload to the U.S. economy is $900 billion annually, as of 2008.
  • For an individual company, 10-20% of the cost of Information Overload should be recoverable in the first year after an organization addresses the problem in a comprehensive manner.
  • A mere 12% of the knowledge worker’s day is spent in thought or reflection.
  • We spend 15% of the day searching for things and 20% in meetings.
  • Think before clicking reply-to-all, or even sending a reply of “Great. Thanks.” acknowledging someone’s e-mail.  Although these are small, individual actions, they add up.

The second keynote was presented by Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and Intel’s former Information Overload czar.  Nathan discussed the problem from the point of view of the large organization (Intel has almost 80,000 employees).  Intel’s own research indicated that its knowledge workers are losing approximately eight hours per week due to Information Overload, a fact that led Nathan to devise and apply a number of solutions starting in 1995.

Key points:

  • It’s important to get buy-in from senior management (he provided some tips).
  • Information Overload is a subject everyone complains about but few actually undertake solutions.
  • The impact can’t be ignored: reduced mental capacity, no time to think about things, direct loss of productive time, breakdown of organizational processes, and a diminished quality of life.
  • While most activity is around personal solutions, “what the world needs are organization-wide solutions.”
  • Start with a pilot program and choose your group carefully.

Bit Literacy
Mark Hurst, founder of Creative Good, spoke about the virtues of an empty inbox and the three “D’s”: Delete, Defer, and avoiD.  Computer literacy, according to Hurst is not sufficient.  Knowledge workers need to develop a far greater fluency and literacy in the use of e-mail, file management, managing images, and managing tasks.  E-mail overload, according to Hurst, is caused by “the lack of to-do management.”  Tools such as gootodo.com go a long way in reducing e-mail overload.

Visionary Vendor Panel

The Visionary Vendor panel, a Basex tradition for almost a decade, was comprised of executives from companies with industry-leading products or services that focus on the problem of Information Overload.  The choice for inclusion was easy: we had already selected five companies to receive the 2009 Basex Excellence Awards for their work in combatting Information Overload and they were the obvious choices for the panel as well.  The Basey winners and Visionary Vendor panelists were:

  • ClearContext: For tools that control the inbox, aggregate project information, and reduce information overload;
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 and for inbox features that help reduce Information Overload;
  • Nordic River: For TextFlow and its ability reduce Information Overload through a collaborative authoring environment;
  • Xerox. For multiple contributions in search and categorization as well as a continued emphasis on Information Overload; and
  • Xobni: For tools that improve inbox management and reduce information and relationship overload.

Before we completely overload you, we’ll pause here and continue next week.