A recent article in the Wall Street Journal states “From the beginning of time until 2003 we generated 5 billion gigabytes of data. In a year, we’ll generate that much data every 10 minutes. How do you avoid information overload?”
An audience member will often ask me this when I speak and my answer is simple but challenging – Balance! this easier said then done but in short, we need to spend some amount of time unengaged for every we spend engaged in media – Social Media, Website, Mobile Apps, TV, Radio, Reading, … In other wise, the key to balance is a few minutes of quiet time each day.
How do you keep your sanity? Do you have any tricks you can share? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Check out the “Three Keys to Beating Information Overload” by Paul A. Laudicina in the Wall Street Journal.
Imagine having—at last—the entire knowledge of human civilization at your fingertips, and finding that it basically gives you a migraine. With the relentless 24/7 information smog of always-on news, e-mail, and social media, most of us are not feeling smarter or wiser these days. Just consider: from the beginning of time until 2003 we generated 5 billion gigabytes of data (“Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler). By next year we will generate that much data every ten minutes. Is it any wonder our ability to think and act with the future in mind has diminished with the daily assault on our over-stimulated brains?
The temptation is to tune out what you can’t control (which is pretty much everything), and focus entirely on the few things you can—from the comfort of your private cocoon. But unlike some, I think going on a media diet or fast is neither realistic nor productive. In today’s complex world, you need to be a talent scout and an information omnivore, and ideally a discerning omnivore.
This might sound like an oxymoron, but let me explain. Clay Johnson, a successful practitioner of political campaigning using the Internet, makes the point that it’s not so much information overload people are dealing with, but rather information overconsumption of the wrong kind. He thinks we read and watch too much information from sources that merely affirm what we already think. I agree.
The first step I would recommend to anyone is to subscribe to—and read—a print newspaper or two. A recent University of Maryland study found that young people the world over think that the news they need finds them, not the other way around. But if you consume news online, you may miss a story that is relevant to a problem you face at work, or learning about an individual who makes you consider an issue in a new light. Online browsing – particularly when so much of today’s content is algorithmically pushed to us based on previous site visits and habits — keeps us from experiencing these serendipitous stories, which can have an unexpected impact on our thinking.
I would also recommend that if you only read relatively highbrow publications (like this one), you should regularly browse the likes of People, Hello! and Entertainment Weekly. Likewise, if you are immersed in pop culture, sports, and social media, I’d advise you to regularly peruse news sources that focus on politics, business, and economics. There is great danger in traveling the same mental routes every day and becoming a “silo” expert when we need more generalists.
And if you want to expose yourself to emerging leaders and tap into the world’s brainpower hubs, you also must realize that reputations are lagging indicators. Looking at rankings is like looking at the nighttime sky: You see the light, but it’s coming from the past. To meet those who are young, hungry, and full of promise, meet everyone you can in your firm. Talk with your seatmates on your next flight. See who your direct reports admire at work and make their acquaintance. You may be pressed for time, but time isn’t the most important ingredient in business: it’s people—and what they know.
Yes, there are times to unplug. Effective people in any occupation do not zoom at warp spe
ed continuously; even field generals retreat to move forward. Finding time to pause, think, reflect, recharge, and be creative is absolutely essential to success in any field. We need to take stock of things overlooked in the hubbub of daily life.
The future belongs not to those who turn down the volume, cancel their subscriptions, or unplug. Instead it will go to those who vary their information diets, listen for important but subtle “weak signals,” and go out into the world to discover remarkable people, ideas, places, products, and services for themselves. Take it all in, as the discerning omnivore you ought to be.
Paul A. Laudicina is managing partner and chairman of the board of A.T. Kearney and the author of “Beating the Global Odds: Successful Decision-Making in a Confused and Troubled World.”