WARNING: System Overload!

NJohnsonBy: Nora Johnson, SMMP Services Specialist, Experient

Data, reports, e-mail, blogs, websites, conference calls, voicemail, projects, news releases, reports, data, data, data: information. Chaotic and overwhelming, and made even more so as we toss in a few additional factors: past, present and future. Now that you may be experiencing an anxiety spike and your fingers are itching to check your e-mail, you should take this moment to stop and breathe

We are fortunate to have a lot of information available to us, and if not readily available, we at least have the means to gather the information. However, in trying to keep up, we find that there is more information than we can possibly process, there is information from questionable sources or there is conflicting information. Regarding information – we’re at an impasse.

How do we stop the madness? We don’t. We just need to learn how to navigate through it with knowledge, purpose, finesse and confidence.

Knowledge: Know your organization, your industry, your procedures, your markets and most important – your decision factors and processes. In today’s world, information can be cherry-picked, similar to entering a grocery store. You need to know your options and your needs so that you can select your ingredients for a fantastic meal. You would not walk out with everything in the grocery store simply because it was too overwhelming to know what you wanted– at least, we would hope not. That would be a logistical challenge, to say the least.

Purpose: As mentioned earlier, know your decision factors and processes. When you establish a purpose for the information you are seeking to gather, you will find that you naturally filter through a lot of unnecessary data and information. Start with the following questions: What questions do I want answered? How will I apply those answers once I have them? Will they make a difference in what I do or how I do it? What data do I need to answer those questions (this comes from knowing the influencing factors tied to your organization, industry, markets, et cetera)? Remember that while there may seemingly be infinite information at your fingertips, you only have finite resources: time, money and human capital. Allocate your resources accordingly and purposefully so that you can maximize the business results, rather than maximizing the amount of information you have stored – somewhere.

Finesse: Finesse, or the appearance of finesse, in the data world is only achieved when you have knowledge and purpose and find that you are no longer caving to a knee-jerk reaction for information or throwing darts into space, hoping you hit or find something that will help you. Realize that information is a tool – not the answer. What you do with the information is the answer to your question or problem.

Confidence: We find ourselves at a moment in time where jurors are afraid to make decisions because sufficient DNA evidence was not collected or there could be a statistical error of 0.5%. In general, they don’t feel comfortable making any decision until they KNOW everything, beyond doubt – not even reasonable doubt. We have shows like CSI to thank for this. The same is happening in the business world today. Most professionals feel uncomfortable making significant decisions when there’s another piece of information that could be gathered or when the data is before them, but does not clearly delineate the answer they were hoping to find. You must have confidence in yourself as a professional, and sufficient knowledge about your organization and business environment, to know when additional information is futile to the decision at hand.

Having information is only valuable if you utilize it to create value. This may be reflected in realized efficiency, improved service and product design and delivery or even the multi-million dollar market swing. It’s a tool. Select and use the tool appropriately. Although obvious, throwing a toolbox at a nail won’t be as wise as simply using a hammer. Gather data so that your magic tool box is full, but be smart enough to look at the final project or task at hand in order to select the right tool.

From the generational perspective: Younger generations aren’t so much better at multi-tasking as they are about tuning out the noise and focusing only on what is important to them at any given moment. Their ability to change gears quickly is the trick. So, if you’re trying to keep up by monitoring all information and communication tools at once, you’re going to tire yourself out very quickly.

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