Twenty years ago ‘information overload’ was all the rage.
”Oh my God,” everyone said, ”how are we possibly going to process all
of the information that we’re creating day after day? We’re buried in
information coming out of copiers, reports and memoranda.”
Well, here we are a couple of decades later and we’re not only buried in
information, we’re paralyzed by it — document management applications
notwithstanding. And it’s not just technology professionals. CNN’s Wolf
Blitzer’s new Situation Room has no fewer than eight screens flashing and
refreshing behind him as he randomly switches from story to story. All
kinds of information is pouring out as you try to track moving images on
eight ever-changing monitors.
How can anyone focus meaningfully on anything? Is this a plot by the
makers of adult ADD drugs?
The best example of this came at a meeting I recently attended. I watched
all of the middle-aged guys pull out their weapons of choice: cell
phones, crackberries, laptops, pagers and what are now considered
old-fashioned PDAs. Each one of them laid their devices in front of them
like they were trying to create some kind of cockpit.
”Mine is smaller than yours,” I heard one of them say, as another
challenged everyone to a digital race. ”I bet I can download more and
faster than anyone here.”
These people are idiots.
When the meeting began, everyone scattered — not from the room but from
the subject at hand. The poor guy who was leading the meeting might as
well have been herding cats. Some of the ‘participants’ were checking
email, text mail and video mail. Others were poking at their PDAs with
little sticks as their heads bobbed up and down. Others rudely forgot to
silence their cockpits which lit up, groaned and vibrated throughout the
What the hell was I doing at this meeting? Everyone was about
half-checked out, servicing the devices that keep them connected with
other half-checked in colleagues scattered throughout the world.
No one can drink from a fire hose.
The inefficiency, frustration and stress built into our personal
information processing (PIP) systems is staggering. Yet we keep our
little darlings on all the time, afraid to miss some important comment
made by half-witted professionals pecking and bobbing at meetings all
over the world.
Here are some suggestions for managing the PIP process:
you’re deliberately trying to disrespect the meeting’s organizers and
addiction. Let senders wait a few days before you respond. After they
realize you are still alive, they will get the message.
looking at people with three or four devices — all with different shapes
and sounds — hanging onto their belts. Who do these people think they
are? Someone needs to tell them that really important people don’t wear
tool belts to work.
than react (as quickly as possible) to the constant stream of mostly
irrelevant information. Once you start ignoring stupid messages, people
will respect you more.
the ‘all’ would rather not be bothered.
I suspect there’s a business here. Certainly the current rage in coaching
could focus on these problems. Hell, there might even be an opportunity
to develop a patch that would help addictees kick many of their PIP