Freedom from information overload

“…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”

Herbert A. Simon

Information is increasing at an unprecedented pace. We all know the story about the explosion of electronic data but the scale of information overload is worth repeating for it is mindboggling. According to IBM:

A recent survey by Ricoh also suggests that 50% of UK and Ireland businesses are far from ready – or have no plans in place – for the digital transformation needed in an age of information overload. As more information is created, and the demand to access it across multiple devices increases, it goes without saying that organisations need a way of managing the onslaught.

The best place to start is by focusing on business critical document processes. These are the processes that occur every day within a business, such as invoicing, that if digitised could free people to focus on more value-added tasks. By embracing electronic workflows and managing data effectively organisations can unlock the potential of a whole host of staff, not just back office workers.

The board, for example, is especially prone to information overload in terms of its impact on the decision-making process. C-Suite executives are up against it when it comes to choosing alternative proposals against a backdrop of an increasing amount of data. With more decisions to make, and the consequences of bad decisions greater, information overload can cloud judgement or cause inertia of choice.

If you think that information overload affects everybody equally then think again. Susan Cain, in her bestselling book ‘Quiet’, makes an excellent case for information overload affecting introverts far more than extroverts. This is because introverts are less likely to filter information, preferring to dive into detail before making decisions. So if faced with increasing amounts of information or antiquated processes in the workplace then this group will be affected, disproportionately. And bearing in mind that, according to Cain, one-third to half of the U.S. population may be classified as introverts, goodness knows how high it is in the UK!

It’s clear that the problem of information overload is not going to go away, if anything it will only get worse. Organisations have a duty to address it now – for themselves and their people – by putting a document strategy in place to manage both physical and electronic information.

By taking a holistic view, organisations will be able to automate many cross-departmental processes so their people only receive relevant information. What’s more; this information will arrive at the right time, in the right place, in the right format. Only then will people be able to forget about unnecessary information, whether through pointless searches or irrelevant queries. In a rapidly changing workplace, it’s this simplicity that will provide the freedom to operate that we all crave.

About Jonathan Reader

Jon is a marketing communications project manager at Ricoh UK & Ireland – sharing views on B2B marketing, technology and business transformation topics, like innovation and sustainability.

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