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Microsoft Ignite 2015: Addressing Information Overload

by Craig Roth  |  May 15, 2015  |  Comments Off on Microsoft Ignite 2015: Addressing Information Overload

The research I have done into Enterprise Attention Management (a more actionable, non-complaining, enterprise-focused sibling to “information overload”) has left me sensitive to “information overload” comments. And I usually expect to hear the same drivel about our caveman brains ready to explode from the deluge of content.

So I was pleasantly surprised to hear a thread of attention management across many sessions at Ignite, and in a non-panicked, actionable way. One reason I prefer the “attention management” angle to the “information overload” angle is that it sidesteps the built-in negative of “overload” and frames the issue in terms of what users pay attention to. I was impressed with the recognition of information overload / attention management as a driver and positive outcome of their efforts.

Some examples from the conference:

  • Gurdeep Singh Pall mentioned “information abundance”, which is a nice, positive spin on overload. In fact, my Gartner Symposium presentation and document was called “The Joy of Information Abundance (and Why Information Overload Is the Wrong Story)” (link for Gartner clients).
  • Julia White mentioned “getting out of that overload” by using personalized insight (Office Sway). She also mentioned one of the studies that shows how your IQ is lowered by information overload. I generally think those studies have a pre-determined outcome and are misguided (I blogged my doubts about another study that also found a 10 point IQ loss), but this one was more about the after-effects of communication rather than interruptions.
  • Seth Patton mentioned the information overload problem due to more devices than people on the planet. Sure, that doesn’t help! But the devices don’t “overload” you unless humans make them do so.
  • Bill Baer was on target when he brought it up as part of describing the evolution of search. He said information overload would be addressed by personalized discovery experiences based upon context. True, although the devil’s in the details. I’m really looking forward to seeing how good Microsoft’s personalization, context extraction and application, and discovery user experience are in real-world scenarios.

Attention management cannot be “solved”, certainly not by software. It’s a constant process of pulling the important information forward and pushing less important information back. And creating information in a way that makes that easier helps the whole process. But the low hanging fruit to be picked involves providing better tools and teaching information workers to use them.

Microsoft’s focus on information discovery and connections between people and information puts attention management square in their sights. And as the software vendor who can have the biggest impact on information worker productivity, that’s a big deal indeed.

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Category: attention-management  information-work  microsoft-sharepoint  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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