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Information Overload

In: Business and Management

Submitted By orenj01
Words 946
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Feeling overwhelmed by too much information? What else is new? Are we having an information overload? Yes, enough to strike terror into the hardiest of managers. In today’s society our management experiences fail because they cannot deal with the overload of change or to much information coming at them. Though we have been dealing with this issue of overload for millions of years, we still don’t know how to manage or distinguish between our short term or long term storage. So let’s think about the helpful information tools and systems that have been given to us for a minute. These social and behavioral functions help us but will the technology of it all win in the long run by simplifying our management skills.
Amy Blair has recently done a very intriguing summary of just why information overload isn't something that we, or still less our kids, dreamed up -- people have been drowning in data for ages regardless of the tools at their disposal. People complain of to many books to read and more than two pages of Google articles is to much for the average reader to read. The complaint of this is also common in other cultural traditions, like the Chinese, built on textual accumulation around a canon of classics. This makes it overwhelming and causes emotional reactions, whether they are hostile or enthusiastic.
Overload has also triggered pragmatic responses, as generations have done their best to locate and use the information they seek, under inevitable constraints of time, energy, and other resources. Typically we select from collective storage facilities, like libraries and the Internet, and not only books and Web pages but also specific parts of them; like arguments, quotations, or facts; and the televised news.
According to Russell Ackoff, a systems theorist and professor of organizational change, the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories: data, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Data referring to as symbols, information being the data that is processed to be useful, providing the answers to questions such as who, what, where, and when. Knowledge being the application of data and information answering the how questions, understanding is the appreciation of why and wisdom is the completed understanding..
Ackoff indicates that the first four categories relate to the past; they deal with what has been or what is known. Only the fifth category, wisdom, deals with the future because it incorporates vision and design. With wisdom, people can create the future rather than just grasp the present and past. But achieving wisdom isn't easy; people must move successively through the other categories. Wisdom would be knowing the facts and completely understanding the information that was gathered and will now be applied.
An example of these five steps is given by Ackoff as, data being rain, information is the temperature dropping a certain degree and then it began raining, the knowledge of this is if the humidity is very high and the temperature drops substantially then the atmosphere is often unlikely to be able to hold the moisture so it rains. The wisdom of all this is it rains because it rains and this includes an understanding of all the interactions that happen during the raining process.
There is no doubt that STS (Socio-technical Systems) provides significant clarity in understanding what drives performance in the organization and the complex dynamic between people and technology. The interrelationships between people and technology mean that it is not a matter of simply installing new technology to solve apparent performance problems, STS provides significant insights into the complex dynamic of performance in an organization. The process of STS analysis is the first step in undertaking organizational diagnosis and change. Change can range from new products, new technology, new people, different training and / or new performance management systems. Keep in mind that although much of the functions of STS analysis are performed at a point in time. Data needs to be collected over time to truly understand the dynamics and allow statistical analysis and comparison, leading to a deeper understanding of causality. Again, going back to wisdom, this data that is being collected over this time needs to be known well and completely understood.
Introducing new technology is not as simple as putting it in place, training people and then expecting them to perform in the way you want them to is very important before putting the new technology into play, it cannot function without the person being knowledgeable on the product as well. Performance drivers are varied, but they are generally controllable. You just need the right framework to analyze current performance and put in place the systematic change required to ensure all the new parts work cohesively.

References
Blair, A. (2010) Information Overload, Then and Now. The Chronicle of Higher Education Review. November 28. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://chronicle.com/article/Information-Overload-Then-and/125479/?sid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

Bellinger, G., Castro, D., & Mills, A. (2004) Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom. The Way of Systems. November 15, 2010 from http://www.systems-thinking.org/dikw/dikw.htm

Green, P. (2010 ) Social Media Is Challenging Notions of the Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) Hierarchy. CMS Wire. August 16. Retrieved November 25, 2010 from http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-20/social-media-is-challenging-notions-of-the-data-information-knowledge-wisdom-dikw-hierarchy--008320.php

Liu, X. and Errey, C. (2006) Socio-technical systems - there's more to performance than new technology. PTG Global. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.ptg-global.com/PDFArticles/Socio%20technical%20systems%20-%20There's%20more%20to%20performance%20than%20new%20technology%20v1.0.pdf

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