Information is a very powerful thing for a person to obtain and know, but what happens when someone is presented with too much information? Information overload can take a person that completely capable of handling a task and turn them into not knowing what to do next.
How does information overload affect group decision making?
Information overload is when the rate of information into a system is faster than the system can handle. This can also occur when the complexity is more than that given system can handle as well.
Indecisiveness can occur when there is information overload leading to issues not being resolved at all. The group itself can then appear to be irrelevant and even foolish to those viewing the group from the outside.
Information bulimia is the process of binging and purging information. When a person is presented with an over quantity of information that can lead to that person not seeing the quality of the information just the quantity.
The group as a whole can suffer from difficulty concentrating with the information overload. The group then appears to have an attention deficit disorder (ADD). Focusing on one topic, issue, or problem extremely difficult for the individuals in the group.
How can you cope with information overload?
There are several different methods that can be used to deal with information overload.
Screening information: using a process of screening out what information needs to addressed can help an individual/group sort out what needs to be handled in some sort of fashion. There may be information that can be very easily dealt with or perhaps doesn’t even need to be addressed at all. There are email programs that can sort out what is needed information for the email user.
Shutting off technology can help an individual refocus on what is needed to be completed. Cellphones and other electronic devices should be off or not used during group meetings to help keep the groups focus on the actual task at hand.
Specializing in a task can help eliminate information overload. Deciding to specialize in a specific area can be one of the best ways to cut down the overload as you are more focused on just single issue.
Being selective or a need to know basis can help keep those that do not need to be involved in the information to just be left out to start with. By setting group goals and priorities the members can determine what needs attention.
Limiting the search for information and finally having “enough is enough” can help give a person time to reflect on what information that is already obtained. A deadline is a great example of deciding that its time to call it quits and go though what is already obtained.
Deciding to narrow the search when using databases can also be a way to deal with too much information. Using keywords to search can easily narrow down the information on the internet. When finding out that there is a pattern to then information obtained can also weed out duplicates and narrow down again.
Which is the most effective coping method?
In my opinion I feel that becoming selective is the best way to deal with information overload. This creates a more black and white situation of what needs to be known and what does not. If it does not fall within the sector of that specialized area the information can then just fall to the way side and not be looked at again. This gives the team time as well to get to know the specialized area like the back of their hand.
Information overload is a real thing but with some processing techniques the information can be sorted out and dealt with as needed. This helps take some of the stress off of the individual and the group as a whole.