George Siemens adds some commentary to the recent KMWorld article on The high cost of not finding information. elearnspace: The High Cost of Not Finding Information:
According to the article, knowledge workers (whatever that means) spend up to 35% of their time looking for information...compound that with extra time spent creating information that could not be found...and it's easy to understand why this is a growing problem. Unfortunately, solutions being offered are not sufficient. Simply creating a single interface for people to access information is not enough.
George also suggests a list of requirements for the information overload problem.
This is a popular topic -- the efficiency gains of the right information technology / knowledge management system based on the fact that people spend a lot of time looking for information. The article focuses on the cost of not finding information or not finding the right information. While I agree that a lot of time is spent searching, I don't know that it is necessarily wasted. Part of the joy of research is that we run across new voices and new ideas as we track through the literature. Of course, if you are looking for a specific item, this mode is not quite as joyful.
In my mind there are (at least) two issues associated with this topic. One is the information overload that George highlights. We need tools to help us deal with the vast quantities of information that are out there to get us both to the right information and the right amount of information. (We don't want false positives.) We are continually looking for better tools and mechanisms to help us in this arena.
The other is touched upon by the KMWorld article, but their solution is better tools. I think we need to educate ourselves and one another as to the resources available outside of Google (or your favorite paid research tool). Within the corporate research environment, there is the research staff who are trained in using all the tools to help you find what you are seeking. The other thing they know is how to probe you for additional context around the search that you are attempting to do. Yes, I can always use some education on doing better search, but I need to rely on those people resources as well.
Until software can start reading my mind to extract context, our librarians and our friends can be excellent resources that we should not forget in the push to automate everything. (I am aware of several software projects that are geared around watching what you do on the computer to build context for searches in their tools.)