The information explosion: paradise or burden?

It seems that as we try to simplify our world, we are faced with greater issues, that require even more changes or consideration resulting in more complexities and complications than when we first started out.

Information Explosion

Over the past 20 or so years of my career I have seen a vast change and it seems that this change is proceeding at an exponential rate. 

In my first year at university I was introduced to a new concept called email, which revolutionised the way I could contact and communicate with people.  Move forward twenty years and now I have more email coming at me daily than I can possibly deal with.  What promised to be a communication paradise has turned into a time management burden.

It seems that every day a new app is released to replace a function of my life with the promise that it will be simpler, beneficial or just plain better.  Some of these replacements have been extremely beneficial such as Maps on my Smartphone instead of needing to carry around a big book of maps or being able to read daily publications rather than waiting for the newspaper to be delivered to my front door step.  Others however have become time vampires such as needing to check in on Swarm every time I go somewhere or post a photo of the meal I have just ordered on Instagram.  The promise of paradise in being able to inform everyone I know, where I am at any given moment has become a time burden.

In 2014, a short video showing the ‘Evolution of the Desk’ was released promising a simplification of the working environment through applications.  Some useful and some not so.  I have just come across another evolution video, this time showing the ‘Evolution of the City’ – Mail boxes being replaced by mail apps, movie theatres by Netflix, bookstores by Kindle and libraries by Wikipedia.  I wonder how many of these promises of paradise will eventually become time burdens.  I just checked and I have over 150 apps on my smartphone – what a smart phone.  How many of these installed apps are actually used?  Eventually, the apps that provide extreme value survive and the ones that become time burdens are ignored, forgotten and discarded.

I see this all too often in business, the promise of paradise in moving documents from file shares into a collaboration environment only to create a time burden as one is forced to categorise, classify, metadata-ise and determine where to save documents.  The most successful collaboration solutions have taken the time to understand the information that is being stored and worked on. 

No two pieces of information are the same nor should they be treated the same. 

Any solution needs to be simpler than before, provide better discoverability and not create time burdens.  If the solution is more complex or takes longer than before, end-user will discard it just like they do their smartphone apps.

It takes time to understand your information and your end-users psyche, and to implement a working, efficient and adopted information collaboration environment.  This is something that takes deliberate planning and attention, learning from past failures to ensure that the promise of paradise can indeed stay as a paradise.

If anything was possible, what would your information paradise look and feel like?  Would there be streams of relevant media you could stroll through?  Would there be waves of alerts, regular as the tides, to encourage a predictable and secure environment?  Would it feel cohesive, inspiring, or (dare I say it) productive?

Or do you prefer the haphazard, disconnected and urgent approach of information output, with red reminders, each screaming their deadlines, each with their own set of argumentative rules?

Has your organisation been intentional with it’s information management design?

I’d love to hear in the comments below what form you prefer your information to take. 

Is it a paradise, or burden?

William Cornwill - Sharing Minds.png