Archive for November, 2009

So, is a Blackberry a pro or con for WLB?

Posted on November 29th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

I was interviewed by a journalist about Information Overload recently and she asked whether I agree that having a smart phone helps people to balance work and home life? My first reaction would be “yes, if you use it wisely”. After all, when we deployed Notebook computers at Intel in the mid-nineties it was eminently obvious that they can be a boon for one’s Life: instead of staying late at the office to finish your work, you could take it home to do after dinner, with the kids safely in bed… and of course, Notebooks enabled Telecommuting, which (at a.. Read more

Information Overload and Haute Cuisine

Posted on November 27th, 2009 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

We tend to think of Information Overload in a knowledge work context – business offices, hi-tech, and the like. But my friend Rich Poliak was in the restaurant business for a while, and he gave me a fascinating glimpse of the situation between the kitchen and the dining hall. It turns out that everyone in his restaurant – the Chef, the line cooks, the servers and he himself – were often checking messages, texting and posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc. He attempted to place a policy of no cellphone use during work hours except for breaks, but it was difficult.. Read more

Mobile phones and parenting

Posted on November 22nd, 2009 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

The impact of handheld devices on our social lives is visible enough; we all see people stop in the middle of a conversation to answer a ringing mobile phone. We’re even becoming used to it, willing to forgive this rather rude behavior. But there is one category of such interruptions where the rudeness is inexcusable, and that is where the affected party isn’t a “consenting adult”: we also interrupt our interaction with our children. The Wall Street Journal carried a wonderful article titled “Blackberry orphans” a few years ago that discussed in some detail how the toll on parental attention.. Read more

The difference between Tips and Rules

Posted on November 17th, 2009 · Posted in Organizational Solutions

A common practice in companies that try to reduce information overload is to provide to employees guidelines promoting proper e-mail etiquette (where by etiquette I mean crafting messages to be less disruptive, and more beneficial, to others: “Write clear subject lines” is about etiquette; “only process email twice a day” is not). These guidelines, though usually not sufficient to solve the problem, are certainly a useful component in a solution program; but it’s important to be crystal clear about their classification: are they Tips or Rules? To illustrate: Tip: Make your messages as short as possible. Rule: No message in.. Read more

The way we were: messaging before the email overload era

Posted on November 13th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

A friend in a US Hi-tech company once commented to me that all this business communication that is manifesting itself as email overload is nothing new: we also had this in the days before email, even if it used paper instead of computer screens. We called it Correspondence, he said. And then he added: We devoted a couple of hours a week to it; the rest of the time, we worked… The difference, of course, is that then, it took two hours a week, where today – the data shows – it takes ten times as much. That’s the problem… Read more

A fine distinction about Multitasking

Posted on November 9th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

A common fallacy I encounter repeatedly is that people – at any rate, the younger ones – are able to “Multitask”, that is, attend to multiple actions at once. Since the problem of interruptions in the workplace (and beyond) is a major component of Information Overload, this fallacy is supposed to be comforting. Unfortunately, it is a myth (to borrow from the succinct title of Dave Crenshaw’s book, The myth of multitasking). Discussing the subject with a friend, she made the point that what people are really doing when they “multitask” is spend some minutes doing one thing, then spend.. Read more

How much information?

Posted on November 5th, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

Am in the US, where I gave a lecture in an interesting conference called “Information Growth. Is it what you think it is? – How much information 2009 summit”, organized by the Global Information Industry Center at UCSD. The summit was held to present first results from the “How Much Information?” (HMI) research program, which is sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and seven hi-tech companies. The research program works to quantify the amount of information that flows into the homes and workplaces of people in this day and age, and to understand how it is divided between different.. Read more

Email Overload and The Little Prince

Posted on November 2nd, 2009 · Posted in Analysis and Opinion

Email Overload is one affliction that people accept more or less willingly. Nobody’s holding a gun to their head, after all. So why are knowledge workers doing this to themselves? We’ll be discussing many causes in this blog, but today I want to probe a remark made by a friend: he observes many knowledge workers who feel that getting lots of email enhances their status. Basically they’re saying “Watch me – I’m important, I get lots of mail and I’m busy handling all of it!” This absurd position reminds me of a scene from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s immortal “The Little.. Read more