The Causes Of Information Overload

Developments in information and communication technology have facilitated the generation of management information considerably. Thus, managers are confronted increasingly with an information flood which provides more information than managers are able to process. This results in an information overload, which, while being advantageous, also carries considerable problems for both consumers and manager. This paper presents the scientific controversy surrounding the information overload problem, its behavioural background and the implications made. Analysis of the subjectively perceived information overload of managers in various managerial fields is presented in the second part. The suggestion, that the subjectively perceived information overload is positively related to the disposable information volume, was confirmed

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.0.1 BACKGROUND

The acquisition of knowledge, and the use of this knowledge as information, represents an important factor in corporate planning in an age of dynamic market developments. It has become an important economic variable alongside production factors such as work and capital. The exploitation of this factor represents a considerable element for market-orientated corporate management

Recent publications have suggested increasingly that the amount of disposable information in (marketing) management exceeds the human processing capacity. Frequently used catchphrases in these discussions are “information flood” and “scarcity of information in an age of surplus information” (Bradley, 2000). The information overload problem arises due to the interplay of the technology-related information supply and the information demand derived from the information and decision behaviour of marketing managers.

An information overload on the part of the manager is viewed as being detrimental to the efficiency of the various decision processes (Bradley, 2000).

Communication and information management system has never been before so easily accomplished as today. With the simple click of a button, internal and external communication can be so effortlessly achieved as with the use of phone connections and desktop computers or laptop devices. It also provides for less capital outlays on the part of the company, as it proves to be the cheapest and most accessible way of transmitting information through a wide variety of media or channels.

1.0.2 BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE PROBLEM

Innovation of information technologies have been presented to us in so many ways, that one may now feel an overload of information, achieving a diminishing marginal utility status in our brains. Therefore, we need to organize and reorganize these pieces of information constantly as to be able to keep track of which are valuable to us and which ones are not

1.0.3 APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY

All the above will be achieved through primary or secondary research, the use of recommended material and lecture notes, different books, websites and search engine.

2.0 INFORMATION OVERLOAD THEORY

Lossee (1999) in article for the Journal of Information Sciences defined information overload as the “economic loss associated with the examination of a number of non- or less-relevant messages, as in related to information retrieval models.” According to Bawden (2001) the concept of information overload defines situations where an individual is presented with an amount of data which exceeds his or her cognitive capacity.

Bradley, (2000) defined information overload as degradation of information. Degradation of information occurs when information is noise like, irrelevant, and interferes with desired signals and when it is redundant, banal, or does not tell enough of interest. One of several definitions of information overload is that there is too much information available in both print and electronic form so that when individuals attempt to sort out the appropriate, relevant and current information from everything else they develop feelings of helplessness (Lossee, 1999).

A second definition of information overload is that the mere presence of more information than an individual could possibly assimilate, absorb and synthesize engenders feelings in individuals that the task of finding the information is an onerous one (Payne, 1998). Put another way, information overload occurs when individuals are aware of relevant information but do not have the time to locate and use that information. Even using Web tools like search engines to find information may result in data smog, that is, finding poorly constructed sites or sites of questionable authority.

The last definition of information overload is that as the explosion in information continues to grow in a seemingly exponential manner, the individual’s ability to be selective in finding and retrieving information does not subsequently grow in tandem (Schroder et al, 1997). The quality of information varies considerably because anyone can publish Web pages provided they have access to a Web server.

Information overload is equated with “the proliferation of available data and publications and ever-more-comprehensive and widespread automated means of access to them” (Schroder et al, 1997). Moreover, research that purports to address the dilemma of information overload does not define or measure it in a fashion that supports its “taken for granted” cultural status.

Solutions to information overload include renewed or revised input from the human intermediary (Payne, 1998) or prioritizing operations performed in electronic environments (Losee, 1999). Studies suggesting solutions to overload are conducted in business settings and embrace decision-making theory and profit motives (Losee, 1999).

3.0 THE CAUSES OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Having too much information and staffing resources are difficult to manage information effectively, which adds information glut and eventually causes inefficiencies in productivity growth.

We can’t do anything about the general information overload in our culture, but we can control overload in the context of our marketing messages. First, let’s look at what can create information overload in your communications.

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3.0.1 LACK OF CLARITY

When a person does not understand something, information is nothing more than random data. Even short messages can overwhelm people if the meaning is not clear.

In advertising, this is often caused by too many writers working on a single project – a sure way to muddle a message. It is also caused by repeat facts without understanding them, by not having a tangible purpose for writing, and by striving to impress rather than communicate.

3.0.2 SEMANTIC DISTORTIONS

The word “semantic” refers to the meaning of words – not just the dictionary meaning but the total meaning as interpreted by a reader or listener. This can vary widely depending on education, experiences, and beliefs.

You must always ask questions about the perceived meaning of your messages: Do your words say what you intend them to say? Is your headline too clever? Do you get lost in a narrative? Is your tone too upscale? Do you spend too much time on the problem and not enough time on the solution? (Summers, 2004).

3.0.3 POOR RETENTION

Generally, direct marketing is more concerned with immediate decisions than image-building or branding. However, it’s beneficial for people to remember favorable facts about your business (Summers, 2004).

Do you make the impression you want to make? Do your prospects hear you? Understand you? Even loyal customers or donors seldom remember much about you. You must continually educate them.

3.0.4 POOR PLANNING

Have you thought this through? Is this the best time for your pitch? Is this the best offer? Are you using the best lists? Do you have the best placement? Are you appealing to the best markets? Even the very best copy cannot overcome faulty planning.

3.0.5 DISTRUST

People are by nature suspicious. Evolutionary biologists have even said that one of the primary functions of the human brain is to be a “cheater detector.”

You might bend over backwards to be honest, but do people believe you? Are you open and generous with information about your organization? Do you offer a fair guarantee? Do you carefully describe your product or service or programs? Are there drawbacks you should point out?

3.1 THE CURES FOR INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Information overload is a human problem that needs a human solution. Before we can design better software, we first need to understand and address our own abilities (or inabilities) to manage information and organize our work day. If we can’t do it ourselves, how can we teach software to do it for us? It will just be a case of the blind leading the blind. Technology is a tool for personal productivity, not a replacement. It can’t exhibit the good judgment of a human being. Technological solutions can only be as good as the people using and developing it (Haider, and Bawden, 2007).

Technology alone won’t solve all our personal productivity and information overload problems – it can only ease them. If we are inefficient to begin with, no amount of technology will fix that. It will just mean you’re inefficient with an expensive toy

3.1.1 KNOW WHEN TO TAKE ACTION

Seeking out that latest article can be just one more form of procrastination that keeps you from accomplishing your real goal. Every now and then, stop and assess the information you already have. Do you have enough to move forward right now? If you do, go for it. If you don’t, only research the areas that you don’t have enough data for yet (Scammon, 1997).

3.1.2 SORT YOUR CURRENT INFORMATION

You have huge piles of data, bookmarks for informative pages online, and lots of reference books but you can’t find anything. Take the time to organize your data based on the actual goal you have in mind. Start from the beginning and find the information that helps you accomplish your first task, and keep a file for it. Then move on to the next step, and the next. That way you can actually use your information, instead of just collecting it.

3.1.3 KNOW WHEN TO STOP

If you’re getting soaked by the torrent of information online, it’s time to get out and dry off. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, take a break and assess what you already know. When you discover specific missing pieces of information you know you need, you can hop back into the water knowing just which drops you need to accomplish your goals.

3.1.4 WHEN TO CONTINUE

Data assessors often feel overwhelmed by all the information out there, so it’s tempting to say “Stop! Too much!” Sometimes, though, you really don’t have enough – you just don’t want to face the gushing river again. Be honest with yourself about whether you’ve really mastered a topic. If you need to know more, hold your breath and dive in again (Russo, 2004).

3.1.5 TAKE CONTROL OF EMAIL

Don’t start your day with email. Set your email so it doesn’t download new mail automatically or, at the very least, turn off any alert system. Instead, set a time to check for messages manually preferably later in the day, after you’ve used your brainpower for more important things.

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Equally important is that others at your business know how you want email used. “Emails should be short, concise, and used only when a conversation is not an option,” says Adrian Moorhouse, managing director of executive coaching firm Lane4. The easier communication is to digest, the more likely it is that the messages will be delivered effectively.

3.1.6 BLINDSIDE THE DATA (APPROACH IT FROM AN UNEXPECTED DIRECTION)

Break down complex information into sub-groups. Once you’ve determined a goal, you can “chunk” your work into groups to achieve it. You can also do this with your to-do lists.

According to an experiment at Wilfred Laurier University, (It’s About Time: Optimistic Predictions in Work and Love, European Review of Social Psychology) people are generally very bad at estimating when they’ll finish their own work, but well at guessing for others. So gauge your timing by using someone else’s experience. You’ll be less stressed if you’re realistic about your workload (Schroeder and Benbasat, 2000).

3.1.7 DO LESS

To do less, you should delegate more. Too many managers can’t resist the temptation personally to get involved in everything that’s happening. But effective delegation means limiting the amount of information you have to process, as well as empowering those around you. Then, ask for regular briefings.

3.1.8 UNPLUG

Many managers feel they can’t shut off the fire hydrant of information. But they can take a break from it. “It’s tempting to think that more information makes for better decisions,” says Penny de Valk, CEO of the UK-based Institute of Leadership and Management. “But in most cases, it just erodes your focus. You need time to synthesize information and generate real intelligence.”

That takes discipline, of course, but it’s useful to stop thinking when you are stuck on a project so your brain can recover. “You do need to switch off and rebalance your brain chemistry if you’re going to come up with new ideas,” says Rock. Stefan Sagmeister of New York-based design firm Sagmeister says he so much believes in the power of time off that he closes up shop for 12 months every seven years to pursue “little experiments” that he doesn’t have time for in his daily life.

3.1.9 IMPROVED EFFICIENCY

An online marketer would be more efficient in his or her work if he or she has complete access to useful resources.

Only choose practical courses and information that can help you to improve your work and your business as well. Most programs that claim to be really effective and powerful produce minimal results.

Therefore, instead of going for a program that is loaded with almost everything that they say you need, go for something that will give you the newest courses and techniques one at a time, well laid-out and smooth (Wilkie, 2001).

3.1.10 CONSISTENT TRAINING

Every information technology has to be updated online with the latest information overload solutions and marketing strategies applicable in the business. By having a laid out program, you are to learn new things about online marketing regularly. Hence, you will not run out of any ideas and your skills will continuously be honed as you learn something new each time. If you’re not sure of the latest technologies and techniques, you and the business you are running will lag behind.

3.1.11 HOLISTIC KNOWLEDGE DEVELOPMENT

It is not enough that you settle for one reference material only. If you want to have a holistic development and have a deeper understanding about, how to overcome on information overload you should look into other courses and programs that have been proven by the entire business community (Virkus, 2003).

If you look into these materials, you will learn more about the different techniques and will soon be able to find a way of doing it yourself. You can compete with it or at the least prevent information overload as you arm yourself with proper information overload solutions and strategies.

4.0 HOW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVE DECISION MAKING

A majority of workers today are knowledge workers – they spend time creating, distributing, or using information. Example: bankers, coordinators, caseworkers, counselors, community organizers, programmers, etc

About 80% of an executive’s time is devoted to information receiving, communicating, and using it.

Information is the basis for virtually all activities performed in an organization

Best use of two key ingredients in organizations – people and information

Effective utilization of information systems in management

Productive use of information

Information is a resource to increase efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness of an enterprise

Some Examples of MIS

Airline reservations (seat, booking, payment, schedules, boarding list, special needs, etc.)

Train reservation

Bank operations (deposit, transfer, withdrawal)

4.1 TYPES OF INFORMATION SYSTEM

Information system aims at processing data: to capture details of transactions, to enable people to make decisions, and/or to communicate between people and locations.

4.1.1 TRANSACTION PROCESSING SYSTEM

Reasons for TP are recording, classification, sorting, calculation, summarization, storage and display of results

4.1.2 MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM

Provide information for decision support where information requirements that can be identified in advance Decisions supported by this frequently occur.

4.1.3 DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEM

Assist with unique and non-recurring decisions, which are relatively unstructured mainly what factors to consider and what information are needed.

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New software should be used by the users in ABC Bank an there is evident of resistance for adopting change in using the new software due to the fact that such users are worried as they are acquainted of using the old software. Truly, culture and brain metaphor appear relevant to the situation as organization change in terms of software utilization is visible and this astounds to the culture of ABC Bank but, can impose such organizational conflicts and issues leading to diverse ideas as reflected within the organization’s brain, the people comprising the ABC Bank (Schroder et al, 1997).

The brain must be learning, self organizing, entity and that, the brain’s very hardware must disassemble, reorganize, restructure and in response to data. In most man-made machines, the data is external to the processing unit. It enters and exits the machine through designated ports but does not affect the machine’s structure or functioning as not so the brain reconfigures itself with every bit of data and then one can say that new brain is created every time single bit of information is processed.

Thus, ABC bank will need to integrate and should go along with Decision Support System (DDS), as there maybe interactive computerized systems that help decision makers utilize data and models to solve unstructured problems with user friendly interface, data and expert knowledge (Schroeder, and Benbasat, 2000). While appreciating potential of technology, it may be noted that technology has not been received in totality by the decision makers and implementers, who are responsible for executing certain management plans in the field. Decision Support System offers the system, which captures knowledge of experts and acquirements of decision makers. In fact, DSS is software that establishes the required relations between the present conditions along with needed management requirement.

4.1.4 OFFICE INFORMATION SYSTEM

Combine word processing, telecommunications and data processing to automate office information. Draw on stored data as a result of data processing. It also includes handling of correspondence, reports and documents.

4.2 MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS

Management is the act or skill of transforming resources (land, labor, capital and information) onto output to accomplish a desired result or objective.

Planning

Establishing goals and developing policies, procedures, and programs to achieve them

Organizing

Grouping activities and establishing organizational structures and procedures to ensure that the activities are performed

Staffing

Obtaining and training personnel to work in the organization in order to achieve goals and objectives

Controlling

Measuring performance against goals and objectives and developing procedures for adjusting goals, procedures, or activities.

Communicating

Transferring information on goals, objectives, and performance to personnel throughout the organization and the environment

4.3 TYPES OF MANAGEMENT INFORMATION

Seven types of information are necessary for top-level managers.

1. Comfort information: informs about current situation or achievement levels that are tuned to expectations. (Clients served, target achieved, patients treated, operations conducted, etc.)

2. Status information or progress information: keeps abreast of current problem and crises and changes (progress on office construction, status of research study, labor negotiation, grant application)

3. Warning information: signals that change for good or worse are occurring (stock price, turn over, client complaints, etc).

4. Planning information: descriptions of projects/programs due in future, knowledge of anticipated developments (future of funding, future of federal/provincial support)

5. Internal operations information: indicators on how organization/ program is performing.

6. External intelligence: information, gossip, and opinions about activities in the environment of the agency. Competition, funding policies, political changes, emerging social policies, etc.

7. Externally distributed information: annual report before release, quarterly progress report for donors, press releases about the agency, publicity material before printing, etc.

Among these, the first five are internal to the organization. Two are external to the organization

5.0 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

As an obvious fact, both consumers and managers face a more extensive supply of information and consequently face a rising risk of an information flood and a personal information overload. Based on the discussions above, it is found out that information is a key resource of the organization, together with people, finances and material assets. Thus, it is accepted to state that information is a business issue. The discussion above revealed that through effective information management of the organization’s resources and systems, organization administrators can add value to the services delivered to customers, reduce risks in the organization’s business, reduce the costs of business development and service delivery and encourage improvement in internal business processes and external service implementation.

It is recommended that when developing an information system just commences to make sure it produces important information and not data. It is better to build a report that is ideal for a specific need then to make a report based on a predefined concession between several users. The shaped information will have value and increases insight into information needs and the way the business is looked at. Adding more and more information to the system and solving the problems as they occur will eventually lead to a system as mentioned. In fact, that is the way any functional Information System is developed. Having an experienced team helping you take the first steps and educating your staff in the first period can make all the difference.

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