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Overload!: How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization by Jonathan B. Spira

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CHAPTER 13

COMPONENTS OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD

All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.

—Carl Sagan

Information Overload is not just one specific problem; it must be seen as an amalgam of multiple problems and issues. Indeed, its origins and manifestations are so varied that few knowledge workers will see the same root causes and impact on their work. One knowledge worker might see it as e-mail overload, another as a search issue, and yet another as a communications issue.

As a result, containing the problem (notice we don’t say “eliminating the problem”) is a huge logistical challenge. Understanding whence Information Overload comes is the first step toward understanding how to stem the tide.

E-mail Overload

Every knowledge worker has to process multiple low-value (“We are now storing paper clips in the supply closet on the north side of the second floor instead of near the reception area”) or no-value (a reply to 300 colleagues saying “Thanks. Great.”) e-mail messages each day.

Today e-mail is challenging the knowledge worker’s ability to do his job as resources (mostly the time the knowledge worker can allocate to e-mail) are becoming increasingly constrained while millions of knowledge workers continue to pump more and more e-mail into the system, further exacerbating the problem. (See “Information Overload and the Tragedy of the Commons” in Chapter 6.) ...

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