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Disclaimer: The views expressed on stopthinksocial are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.
Tuesday
Sep142010

« What's the cure for Infoglut? »

I'll be honest, I had never even heard of infoglut until recently when it was voted the winning topic for discussion for our weekly Social Chat event last week. But I now realise I am a sufferer.

Infoglut (also known as "Information overload") is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler that refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information

So what's the cure for infoglut?

Before I try to answer that, let me take you back a couple of years at a time when I first out started on my "social media is about people" crusade and how I overcame, what I now perceive as, infoglut.

In order for me to make the right business decisions to create The Social Workplace, I needed to keep an eye on the market and understand how social media was being used as well as listen to what my customers needed. This is a lot of information to wade through, a lot of infoglut.

It was never my objective to reduce my email traffic in the beginning, but with all this information being directed to my inbox it soon became apparent that email overload was a major contribution of my infoglut and it needed addressing.

These are the various stages, and thinking, I went through to overcome my infoglut (you might recognise some of these stages...):

Stage 1 - Toe dipping
My social network was small, I was reading a couple of blogs a week (receiving notifications via email) and expanding my knowledge and understanding of social media at a slow but manageable rate.

Stage 2 - The RSS Reader
As my social network grew and I was reading more blogs and listening to podcasts, my email inbox began to overflow like a blind barman pulling his first pint.

I needed a way to segregate the various bits of information to digest at a more convenient time so I started to use an RSS Reader (www.feeddemon.com allowed me to monitor information inside and outside my company's firewall) which helped me to structure my information flows and to separate it from my day-to-day email traffic.

Stage 3 - The power of Communities
By this time I was becoming better socially connected and whilst that was the goal it did mean that there was more demand for information on socialnomics and social technologies. The more email requests I received the slower I was to respond, and the slower I was to respond the more requests I received asking why I was slow in responding (oh the irony!).

The accessibility of an employees tacit knowledge is a highly under-valued commodity in most businesses and I wanted to tap into and utilise this expansive knowledge network to reduce my infoglut level. By introducing a couple of Social Business Communities (one focused on the business aspect of social media, the other focused more on social technologies) I was able to channel all requests into these online communities. This resulted in a significant reduction in my email traffic, allowing the communities to become self-sustaining (over time), and prevented me acting as a bottleneck of information.

Stage 4 - Working with Workspaces
This redirection of information to a social platform reduced my infoglut considerably and allowed me to refocus my energies on my "social media is about people" crusade once again, which is where I began defining and driving new projects and initiatives to create a more socially connected enterprise. Introducing online workspaces to work collaboratively with users on these new projects and initiatives was a really effective solution until.....

Stage 5 - Defining Favourites
I now had over 30 active workspaces. Workspaces to work with my team on identifying and managing their fiscal objectives, workspaces for managing projects, workspaces for team meetings, workspaces for task force meetings, even a workspace for sharing large files....so I started tagging my favourite workspaces and my favourite blogs, choosing to prioritise my time and energy.

Stage 6 - The Supermarket Scanner
Having worked so hard to have all this really useful information at my finger tips, I'm not willing to discard it but I don't have the time to read everything. So I now scan, choosing the key bits of information to respond to within the permitted time frame. And I have become an effective scanner, absorbing information at a fast rate (though I don't go beep once finished).

So what's the cure for infoglut? Is it to reduce the amount of information flows?

Sadly, I haven't found a cure to-date but...

"The objective is not for me to reduce the amount of information flows I'm connected to, but instead evolve how I manage them, whilst maintaining my productivity levels"

And I realised this is exactly what I have been doing over the last 2 years, constantly evolving how I choose to receive my information flows and how I engage myself and others with them and not becoming a slave to the data.

So next time you feel inundate with too many emails and overwhelmed by so much information from different sources, take a step back and assess how you are managing your own infoglut level and find a suitable solution to ease your suffering. Do this regularly and choose to be more productive.

How are you preventing you own infoglut suffering? What actions have you taken and what positive results have you seen?

References (3)

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    What's the cure for Infoglut? - Blog - STS

Reader Comments (3)

Like the bit about your inbox overflowing is like a blind man pulling his first pint ;-)
Never heard of infoglut. Is this a real terminology or have you just made this up ? Regardless, you do make some good points. Information overload is a problem whether you are a business leader or not, and disseminating key information from "trash talk" takes time. Great message, got me thinking about my own "infoglut".

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMathew Mall

Hi Mathew,

Infoglut is definitely a real terminology - it's on wikipedia so it must be real ;-)

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstopthinksocial

Great post David. For me it's been a slow realisation that you have to establish a mindset that you are not going to be able to keep up with everything. Regarding email, I believe that by monitoring the type of emails that come into the inbox you can take the necessary steps to cut it out, through use of techniques such as filters, unsubscribing and pushing the senders to online communities.

For RSS, I carefully curate my feeds. I use folders and priortise my those feeds into a folder that I attend to daily. If I read the rest that's great, if I don't then I don't lose much sleep over it.

Email and RSS are only two of the many sources. I've not even mentioned Twitter, Facebook, books, newspapers, Podcasts or TV Programmes. However as I said at the start you've got to figure out how much time you've got and shape your habits to take in the optimum amount of content.

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Bradley

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