Information Overload ©2015 Mark Henderson
I made a faux pas the other day: I had gotten off the elevator at a client’s building, leading—with legs that are always aimed somewhere and moving fast—a group to a meeting. Being first to reach the doors, I grabbed and inadvertently tried to rip the thick-glassed door off the hinges, and with a loud shuddering boom, I might add. The group behind seemed to gasp in unison, “DON’T YANK ON THE DOORS!” Their collective tone seemed to add “idiot” as a closer, but no one actually said it, audibly anyway. Of course, there before my eyes was a fairly bright placard on the very same door that read (as best I can recall), “PLEASE! Do not force the door open. Sensors will release the lock…” It went on to describe that these doors have been damaged by—and these are my own words here—other knuckleheads who refuse to read signs. I was embarrassed, and my quick-draw arms requested my legs to slow down the pace, so I took a backseat to the group for the remainder of this little trek.
Of course, I could chalk this up to the Caveman gene rearing its John Wayne head. I was, after all, leading a group of mostly female peers and my inner Caveman wants to lead the way. I mean, there could be a saber-toothed tiger, or a whacked-out terrorist, or a glass wall all of which might need a little beat-down. However, upon further review, I came to the conclusion that I “missed” the sign—in effect, a mini-procedure—because of information overload.
Much has been written about this fairly new phenomenon: In an age where we are continually bombarded with rapid-burst information, “information overload” dulls our senses, slows our abilities to process information as rapidly as it streams at us, and requires the use of mental “filters” to screen out chafe. Studies are revealing that our brains are being rewired to survive this information battleground.
So, what does this mean to those of us who need to deliver clear, concise, and valid (a.k.a. meaningful, useful) information?
Most importantly, I think, we need to be creative in the how we present information. How do we make it “applicable” to the receiver? Then, how do we make it effective? Advertisers are, as a group—and this is not a new phenomenon—well ahead of the curve on how to present information effectively.
Trust me, I would gladly have received the information, processed it as “applicable” to me, and followed the procedure for operating that door in the lobby. However, that procedure failed to communicate its important message in time for me to take the proper action.
The message is simple: To be effective communicators, we must adapt our approach in this ever-changing information battlefield to create and deliver information that is both meaningful and valuable to our target audience.