The Apocalypse of Abundance: 5 Steps to End the Insanity of Information Overload

October 8, 2015
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If you’re like many of the people I know, the things you once enjoyed most about the Internet now make you feel overwhelmed or even left behind because you can’t keep up–there’s simply too much of everything. It started with too many websites and blogs. Next, it was the explosion of choices for music and videos, and more recently, even podcasts. Apparently, dating has also hit overload for some people, according to the much shared

If you’re like many of the people I know, the things you once enjoyed most about the Internet now make you feel overwhelmed or even left behind because you can’t keep up–there’s simply too much of everything. It started with too many websites and blogs. Next, it was the explosion of choices for music and videos, and more recently, even podcasts. Apparently, dating has also hit overload for some people, according to the much shared Vanity Fair article on Tinder a few weeks ago.

This “apocalypse” of abundance, as I like to call it, is here to stay and things will likely get worse over time, not better. Being able to distinguish the things that have value to us–both things we know we’ll like, plus the things that we need to know (but may not actively seek out)–becomes even more important as this volume of options expands. The same is true–to an even larger degree–for the enterprise, where being overwhelmed (and under-informed) can bring more than just stress.

In fact, with the right tools and an approach that fits your goals, this abundance of information can be used to your advantage. Here are 5 steps that an organization can put into action to manage and extract value from the large volumes of openly available information, focusing specifically on external information:

1) Define a target

External information (for example    ….) is especially challenging for any organization to effectively process. Therefore, the first priority (and essential first step of any information management process) is setting a target. It’s the answer to the question “What do you want to monitor?”.

Regardless of whether you are focusing on competitive intelligence, third party risk, hiring a new executive or general social media analysis, it is essential to define the boundaries of what you’re looking for. These boundaries can be broad or specific, in the form of first name and last name, company name, or geography, etc. This simple task will allow you to select ALL of the information that could be relevant.

2) Structure a workflow

Once you have a clear task and a clear target, it is important that you define what you need to do to complete your task. In other words, choose WHERE to look for information, WHAT to look for, and WHO should receive your search results, etc.

3) Assign tasks

An effective analysis also requires assigning tasks to team members in order to validate your results. For example, if you are evaluating a new hire, you need to do the traditional checks for skills and experience, but you’ll also want to analyze internet and social media information to round out the profile (character analysis, identify additional knowledge and skills, etc.). With a competitive intelligence project, you’ll want to make sure your analysis extends to the patents published and products launched in addition to standard items like press releases. Your analysis will be even more effective and efficient in the long term if your results can be validated by experts in the various areas rather than from a single point of view.

4) Transform and store knowledge

This is probably the most strategic aspect of an information analysis task. Each analysis brings a wealth of additional knowledge to your organization that needs to be maintained and kept for future use. This requires discipline in acquiring, transforming and storing your augmented knowledge. Storing it doesn’t only mean keeping your documents for future access, but if possible, turning this into structured knowledge (DB, triple store, etc.) to be easily reused and shared across the organization and across activities.

5) Distribute effectively

Let’s not forget the importance of making people aware of your work. Information needs to be distributed to the strategic stakeholders, and the knowledge must be shared in a format that can be easily consumed and used throughout the organization (not only in technical circles).

In the face of too much information (especially external information), doing nothing due to information and option overload can kill an organization’s ability to be effective. Given that this information apocalypse shows no signs of letting up no matter the industry or sector, you’ll want to be prepared.

In our commitment to creating the best software for supporting the information management process, these 5 steps are the core framework around which our product roadmap is developed. With a disciplined implementation, these same steps can bring structure and focus (and peace of mind) to your information management activities.