How to Minimise Information Overload

The quantity of information flowing into our businesses on a daily basis has reached the level of information overload. The problem, of course, is the proliferation of the communication network. We have the corporate information systems, Internet, email, instant messaging, telephone, fax and a multitude of portable communications devices all designed to keep us informed. To manage this flow requires discipline and focus.

Individuals and businesses are becoming much more confident in their use of information technologies, but, due to time and cost constraints, are increasingly looking for a "single source" for their information needs.

Technology vendors have developed products intended to make information access easier. But technical solutions may not be enough. They can exacerbate the overload problem, because they do not necessarily restrict how much information you can receive -- they just make it easier to get it to you. The proliferation of technology includes the corporate information systems, Internet, email and telephone - in the past the role of a good secretary was to act as a human filter. With the changes in working patterns, most of us no longer have the luxury of this and technology has to provide filtering mechanisms to replace the skills of that secretary.

Research from Gartner found, quite surprisingly, that the most useful information employees receive comes from personal networks, contact with friends and colleagues, and emails - rather than the finely tuned information source that is supposed to be the Intranet. This may be because there are few, if any, knowledge management solutions which can filter effectively for each individual.

We all know that information should be limited to that which is useful for decision making, and must be reliable, accurate and timely but we also like to know the wider picture and our personal networks still provide that better and easier than most systems.

To reduce confusion when searching for information, a person should know what tools are available and how to use them. Obviously we know how to use our personal networks, learning how to filter technology requires training and practice and when we are all overloaded with the pressure of not being able to "see the wood for the trees" finding time to specify the filters and test and refine them is a luxury that few of us find time for. If we could define these filters then our use of the internet and intranets would be much more efficient.

This is the last in a short series of articles about the excess of information in the "information age". Previous articles have considered:

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