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    Information Overload: Drowning in a Sea of Inspiration

    Posted by Luis Serpa on January 30, 2007 - 12:07 AM

    Everyone around me is overwhelmed by information and I am no exception.

    Information OverloadMy desk is overflowing with invoices, statements, memos, meeting minutes, reports, articles and books. Post-its® decorate my computer at work and at home. Somewhere in there, I have a paper calendar that I stopped updating long ago. I try to concentrate on the electronic part of my life, hoping that my computer’s processor will magically sort out this mess for me…

    Not a chance! My desktop background is hidden behind an army of icons, shortcuts, gadgets, widgets, and, of course, digital Post-its®. Microsoft Outlook practically attacks me with meeting alarms every time I open it; my inbox now has 86 new emails (not counting the already filtered spam and junk mail) and at least the same amount of old emails that I should answer, but I know I am not. On top of that, I’m stacking up more than a thousand unread feeds from my favorite news websites and blogs.

    All my potentially good ideas seem to be adrift in this vast virtual pool of information. They are just there, below the surface, waiting for some essential fact to jumpstart my brain into a feverish state of creativity.

    Just within my sight, but still beyond my grasp, I can identify a few good candidates for inspiration:

    • Jacob Nielsen’sSeniors Usability Study” stares at me everyday when I come to the office. Unlike the half-read and overlooked “Intranet Design Annual Report” from 2006, this one still acts as if it could draw me to it by sheer force. 
    • Tom Vander Wells post from last week has some compelling links and examples that I believe relate to one of my previous blog posts.
    • I am still hoping to read the report “Mouse Rage,” released last month by the Social Issues Research Centre and available at
    • I definitely need to know more about Illinois’ teen-driving reform act, since it may affect some of my client projects.
    • And of course, Seth Godin and Scott Adams are still there, sending their everyday drop of wisdom, wit or contradiction to feed my hungry mind.

    After all, if I don’t read other people’s works and opinions, how can I write my own?

    If a solution for my problem is available anywhere out there, I haven’t found it yet. It is probably in article number 875 in the list of blog posts I will never read, or chapter 11 in the 100th book from my Amazon wish list.

    The real problem is that I am already so numb from information overload that I don’t realize I have a problem (and I am supposed to evaluate processes and usability in my job!). I have some vague notion that I need to do something about it some day, but the endless list of tight deadlines keeps pushing it down the priority list.

    Information Overload 2And it all gets worse. One issue of the New York Times now contains more information than a 17th century man or woman would have encountered in a lifetime. In the last 30 years, humanity has produced more information than in the previous 5,000. The world’s produced information is increasing at a rate of 30% per year, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down

    Now you would say, “Yeah, that’s pretty interesting, but what does it have to do with customer experience?

    Well, imagine that your customer is most probably suffering from the same predicament. What can you do to make your products or services stand out and emerge above all others?

    You will find at least 6,020,000 “answers” to that question in Google.

    Now, if you excuse me, my brain just froze and I need to reboot.

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    3 Responses to “Information Overload: Drowning in a Sea of Inspiration”

    1. On May 30, my desk looked like yours. Today, Jan 30, there is not a piece of paper on it. How did it happen? On June 1 I sat down and read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Major paradigm shift! Read it, then do it. You’ll be a lot happier and so much more productive. That’ll give you more time to do the fun stuff.



    2. Luis Serpa says:

      Thanks, Glenn.

      I guess this one wasn’t even 101st book on my Amazon list, but now I may be making it the next in line. It’s definitely worth the try!

      I will let you know if it works out…



    3. […] that intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training and knowledge and claims that, in an age of information overload,  experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of […]

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