Tackling information overload

information overload

This excellent post on blog Creative Communications provides a great summary of one of the major challenges facing business communication today: ‘information overload’

I particularly like the final paragraph:

“When people complain about information overload I don’t think it’s so much about the ‘quantity of data’ but the ‘lack of signal’. A hundred new emails in your inbox in the morning is only information overload if most of them contain pointless information (noise). If every single one contained information relevant to what you’re working on, it’s not information overload (it may be a high workload, but that’s different). That’s the difference between communication and information. Information is ‘stuff’ or ‘data’ whereas communication is about making a connection. [……] It’s a noisy world out there, so fellow communicators, get out and find that damn signal.”

Finding the signal

And that’s where internal communications can add real value. Taking on the role of connector, signal master and ‘siever’, if you like, for the information available within the business. Making it meaningful to others, depending on who they are and what behaviour we need to drive.

So what do we need to do to reduce information overload in business? Is it possible?

1)    Support others to communicate more effectively

Reduce the amount of ‘noise’ in circulation by helping others identify the nuggets of information from the rest of the stuff that lacks meaning. Provide the tools and techniques for good communication by asking the ‘why’ for every single piece of communication: why do people need to know, what will they need to do and how does this connect to business strategy and objectives.

2)    Curate

Play the role of curator for the audience by finding the nuggets and bringing together in easy to digest formats. Many of us have been doing this for a while – weekly wrap-up newsletters for example, but there are many more opportunities now such as infographics, which quickly summarise a huge amount of information.

3)    Connect to strategy. Find meaning.

Don’t just curate information, but also help connect the pieces to the business strategy. Find the meaning for your audience and give context.

4)    Narratives

A good comms plan creates awareness and drives action. A great comms plan also builds cumulative understanding and engagement – as one piece builds on top of the previous piece into a chain that gives context and meaning and connections. The narrative that stretches through the comms plan is the ‘signal’ in operation which guides the audience to the behaviour, action or change that is the objective.

5)    Slow it down

Control the pace. Slow down the informational onslaught by working with stakeholders to stagger communications and focus in on just a few key messages at a time.

Finally, it’s time to accept the changing status quo. ‘Information overload’ is here to stay and we need to adapt. The role of internal comms and our purpose within the organisation is needed more than ever before. But we have to work even harder to make our messages heard.


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