Thursday, April 06, 2006

Information Overload - from a decision perspective

I had an interesting discussion yesterday about information overload. The framework, though, was from a decision perspective: What percentage of decisions made are based on what percentage of information collected.

In my own life, I hypothesize that easily 80% of decisions I make are based on 20% of information I take in. In other words, 80% of what I read has no real bearing on what I choose to do.

Daily, I daily read the WSJ and various websites/blogs. Weekly, I read the Sunday NYT, Economist and a book or two. There is not only a lot of redundant information there, but a lot of information that is never even applied to a decision. That's not to say I'm going to stop reading all those sources. There is a lot of satisfaction in "knowledge for knowledge's sake". There is also social and entertainment value derived from information independent of its use in decision making.

For corporations or governments, however, where each piece of information carries a cost in either time or money, that 80% of information needs to be cut back. What form does it take? Unnecessary consulting reports, overlapping group output, unnecessary email trains, decks with no impact on a decision, etc.

How do corporations and governments solve this? Some of it is tools. Our group is using Wiki's which cuts down on unnecessary information such as vapid email trains. However, I think a lot of this is cultural. You need strong leadership that is able to say, "No, we aren't paying for another consulting report, we have all the information we need." That is really difficult to do. You can't expect someone who appreciates "knowledge for knowledge's sake" to suddenly flip a switch and be a different person at work where information is purely utilitarian.

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