This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Uh oh: Information overload does not exist

I may be in trouble. Ton Zijlstra has a recent piece on signal vs. noise in which he says: Ton's Interdependent Thoughts: Every Signal Starts Out As Noise

Why do we call information and data coming to us noise? Because we know not all that stuff is useful, we label the unuseful stuff as noise. And because of the tilted signal to noise ratio we perceive, i.e. what little we actually use from what comes at us, we say we suffer from information overload. I say that this is rubbish.
There is no such thing as information overload. It does not exist.

"Information overload" is the phrase I am using in the current version of my "what do I do" talk with people. They seem to understand information overload from their own perspective, and I can usually communicate that the individual problem is only exacerbated in groups of people. Thus "Helping organizations deal with information overload" can make sense in conversation.

What Ton is suggesting is that information overload is a temporary phenomenon due to the changing nature of the way we draw information and our historical fear of "missing something" if we don't examine every piece of potential information. Ton suggests that we need to move away from this mode of operation to something that is more flexible and trusting of the simple fact that we can only absorb so much within a given time frame. At some point, we need to make decisions and see what happens as a result. We are always free to make mid-course corrections if it appears our actions have unintended consequences. Ton argues that in today's world these consequences are frequently unknowable in the time we have to make the decisions.

Now this is something that makes sense for me in terms of how I want to approach organizations. So, no "information overload," but I aim to help organizations become confident in their abilities to take action in an uncertain and incomplete world.

The good is the enemy of the best

Telephone game, anyone?