Lucy Kellaway's article -- "When Too Much Information Harms the Office" -- was published in the U.K.’s Financial Times in late November. Kellaway wrapped up a story that’s been obsessing Marketing Brillo for months, to wit: What are people actually doing about information overload? Answer: Stuffing the ears, closing the blinds, shutting down.
Kellaway offers anecdotal feedback that workers aren’t reading anything. “The first comes from a friend who works in communications for a large organisation. She has noticed that her staff are responding to the information overload not by digesting too much of it, but by stopping to digest anything at all. She tells me that, in her company, the written word has lost almost all its power. No one reads e-mails any more - with the exception of those from the boss. Messages from anyone else are either deleted unread or given a cursory glance and then ignored.”
Counter-offensive #2 also is pretty shocking. Kellaway reports that companies are dealing with too much information by closing down their libraries and knowledge centers. “In one big consultancy, all the people who used to sort information into usable chunks have just been fired, and consultants have been told that they will have to 'self-service their knowledge needs'."
The buzz that prompted Kellaway’s article came from Carol Bartz, president and CEO of Yahoo, who contributes to The Economists’s “the World in 2010.” Bartz notes that -- in the free flowing information waterfall -- managers are losing control of employees. “That’s why the greatest mandate for leadership in business is the ability to cut through the information clutter and make clear decisions without apology. More than at any time, employees need—in fact, desperately want—unequivocal direction.” As for Yahoo itself, Bartz talks about video “snacks,” calling video the “cornerstone” of Yahoo’s strategy.
That's confusing. Where does a a preferred diet of light weight video snacks square with a CEO's mandate to lead, manage information overload, and make unapologetic, unequivocal decisions?
Snack video may be able to effortlessly quell hunger pangs for "vital information," but factoids have little to do with thought and judgment, and not a whit to do with leadership. Marketing Brillo sincerely hopes that CEOs will remotivate employees to consume a full-course of considered, well-written, prudent content, no matter how long it takes to serve it. Long live the knowledge center.
-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo