Thursday, June 17, 2010

Information Overload: Separating the Crucial from the Trivial

With the arrival of the Internet, the amount of information available is estimated to double every 18 months or sooner. This continuous flood of information with no frame of reference for managing it makes separating the crucial from the trivial an anxiety producing and overwhelming task.

Society has a harder time adjusting when media becomes more abundant than when it is scarcer, so every time a great shift occurs in the delivery or distribution of the body of knowledge that is available to society - such as the printing press - people at the time of its occurrence  feel overwhelmed, and unable to focus or keep up  with the overflow of material.  The new media can be very distracting, in part, because it is has not yet found its’s a novelty and novelties divert our attention.

Institutions, such as implementing an entire structure to teach children to read were built to mitigate the downsides and increase the value of literacy after the printing press arrived.  Billions of dollars and countless hours per year are required each and every year in order for   print to be a valuable thing. In the same way, new institutions will have to be created to ensure the value of  this new media.

Basex estimates, based on data it has gathered, that information overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion to $1 trillion per year  in lost productivity and reduced innovation.  This is based on information overload in the office and how much businesses are losing due to inefficiency of workers who are changing taks so often that when they go back to the first task, they have long recovery time where they try and regain focus and that is incredibly costly to a business when you have employees who aren’t focusing at all. 

Breakdown of knowledge worker:

28%-Unnecessary interruptions followed by "recovery time" to get back on track

25%-Creating content-productive!

20%-Meetings-some productive, some not

15%-Searching for information (and an estimated 50% of searches fail)

12%-Thinking and reflecting


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