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Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization [Hardcover]

Jonathan B. Spira
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 31 2011
Timely advice for getting a grip on information overload in the workplace

This groundbreaking book reveals how different kinds of information overload impact workers and businesses as a whole. It helps businesses get a grip on the financial and human costs of e-mail overload and interruptions and details how working in an information overloaded environment impacts employee productivity, efficiency, and morale.

  • Explains how information?often in the form of e-mail messages, reports, news, Web sites, RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, instant messages, text messages, Twitter, and video conferencing walls?bombards and dulls our senses
  • Explores what we do with information
  • Documents how we created more and more information over centuries
  • Reveals what all this information is doing

Timely and thought-provoking, Overload! addresses the reality of?and solutions for?a problem to which no one is immune.


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"Rich with helpful, pragmatic advice, Overload! provides details, tips, and strategies that the world's leading organizations, including IBM, Intel, Morgan Stanley, and the U.S. Air Force have employed." (LeadershipNow.com-Review)

From the Inside Flap

Information has become the great leveler of society and business. In 2010, Information Overload cost the U.S. economy almost $1 trillion. What is Information Overload costing your organization? Written by Jonathan Spira, one of the technology industry's leading thinkers and pundits, Overload!: How Too Much Information Is Hazardous to Your Organization lays out the history and many manifestations of Information Overload in the workplace, as well as tips and strategies to limit the disruptive and costly consequences.

From endless e-mail, social media, and texting, to poor search tools and a dramatic increase in information generation, Information Overload is stretching the bandwidth of businesses and employees at unprecedented levels. Revealing how the very tools deployed to make knowledge workers more efficient have in turn bogged productivity down, Overload! explores the many ways today's tidal wave of information has bombarded and dulled our senses as well as hampered our ability to innovate and produce.

Spira examines the staggering statistics of time and money lost due to Information Overload, including:

  • There are 78.6 million knowledge workers in the United States alone.

  • Information Overload cost the U.S. economy almost $1 trillion in 2010.

  • A minimum of 28 billion hours is lost each year to Information Overload in the United States.

  • Reading and processing just 100 e-mail messages can occupy over half of a knowledge worker's day.

  • It takes five minutes to get back on track after a 30-second interruption.

  • For every 100 people who are unnecessarily copied on an e-mail, eight hours are lost.

  • 58 percent of government workers spend half the workday filing, deleting, or sorting information, at a cost of almost $31 billion dollars.

  • 66 percent of knowledge workers feel they don't have enough time to get all of their work done.

  • 94 percent of those surveyed at some point have felt overwhelmed by information to the point of incapacitation.

  • One major Fortune 500 company estimates that Information Overload impacts its bottom line to the tune of $1 billion per year.

  • Information Overload has caused people to lose their ability to manage thoughts and ideas, contemplate, and even reason and think.

  • The reality that many e-mail exchanges which go on for days and weeks at a time could be resolved with a five-minute phone call.

  • Why Information Overload has completely destroyed the work-life balance, resulting in workdays that never seem to end.

Rich with helpful, pragmatic advice, Overload! provides details, tips, and strategies that the world's leading organizations, including IBM, Intel, Morgan Stanley, and the U.S. Air Force have employed.

Don't let Information Overload strangle your organization's productivity. Fight back with the tips and strategies found in Overload!


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Chip and Dan Heath are the co-authors of two brilliant books, Made to Stick and Switch. In the first, they explain (as its subtitle suggests) "why some ideas survive and others die." In his book, Overload!, Jonathan B. Spira addresses a much larger issue: Why too much information is "hazardous" to an organization's health and also to the health of many among its workforce. As he explains, "Information Overload is killing us. It is death by a thousand paper cuts in the form of e-mail messages, documents, and interruptions...While there is relatively little we can do about Information Overload, we don't have to grin and bear it. What does help reduce Information Overload and lessen its impact is 1.) raising awareness and 2.) presenting context and history as to why the problem is occurring."

He goes on to observe, "Raising awareness helps because most people are simply unaware of the root causes of Information Overload, such as poor search techniques, unnecessarily copying dozens if not hundreds of colleagues on an e-mail, or calling someone two minutes after sending an e-mail simply to tell the recipient of its presence. Providing context and history puts things into perspective." Spira organizes his material within two Parts: "How We got Here" and then ""Where We Are and What We Can Do."

My own rather extensive experience supports Spira's assertion that Information Overload is both the result of several serious problems that are its root causes, and, is itself the root cause of countless other serious problems. For example, in an organization in which senior management has determined that collaboration must be increased and improved, people will be under severe pressure be become much more involved in communication and cooperation between and among associates.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why more information usually means less information has impact Aug. 31 2011
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Chip and Dan Heath are the co-authors of two brilliant books, Made to Stick and Switch. In the first, they explain (as its subtitle suggests) "why some ideas survive and others die." In his book, Overload!, Jonathan B. Spira addresses a much larger issue: Why too much information is "hazardous" to an organization's health and also to the health of many among its workforce. As he explains, "Information Overload is killing us. It is death by a thousand paper cuts in the form of e-mail messages, documents, and interruptions...While there is relatively little we can do about Information Overload, we don't have to grin and bear it. What does help reduce Information Overload and lessen its impact is 1.) raising awareness and 2.) presenting context and history as to why the problem is occurring."

He goes on to observe, "Raising awareness helps because most people are simply unaware of the root causes of Information Overload, such as poor search techniques, unnecessarily copying dozens if not hundreds of colleagues on an e-mail, or calling someone two minutes after sending an e-mail simply to tell the recipient of its presence. Providing context and history puts things into perspective." Spira organizes his material within two Parts: "How We got Here" and then ""Where We Are and What We Can Do."

My own rather extensive experience supports Spira's assertion that Information Overload is both the result of several serious problems that are its root causes, and, is itself the root cause of countless other serious problems. For example, in an organization in which senior management has determined that collaboration must be increased and improved, people will be under severe pressure be become much more involved in communication and cooperation between and among associates. This will create an Information Overload that, in turn, consumes time and energy that should have been allocated elsewhere.

I presume to offer four suggestions to those who read this brief commentary. First, decide whether or not you and/or your organization now suffers from Information Overload. If so, pin down precisely what the most serious problem is (e.g. too many non-essential emails to send and/or read, too many non-essential reports to complete or read). Next, carefully check Spira's coverage of that specific problem in the book. Finally, read Part I and then only the material relevant to the most serious in Part II. All or even most of the problems cannot be solved simultaneously.

I have no quarrel with any of his advice but do think he calls prey to the perils of Information Overload his book was intended to reduce. The more information, insights, and recommendations he provides throughout the 21 (count `em, 21) chapters within 237 pages, the less impact his most important ideas have. I think a much different format that includes reader-friendly devices such as checklists, self-diagnostic exercises, and end-of-chapter summaries of key points would have better served his purposes. One man's opinions.

That said, I commend Jonathan Spira on the quality of content and the scope and depth of his analysis of serious problems that cause or result from Information Overload. I now urge him to consider an Overload! Fieldbook (with a workbook format), one that correlates with this book's sequence of subjects but also enables people to interact with the material by completing exercises that accomplish two important objectives: They help the respondent to define the nature and extent of a given problem -- in its context -- within her or his own situation and/or organization; also, they emphasize the most important points, thus facilitating, indeed expediting frequent review of both those points and responses later.

As I said, one man's opinions.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timely and compelling read May 23 2011
By Anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Jonathan Spira's engaging and thoroughly researched book, Overload: How Too Much Information Is Hazardous to Your Organization presents an urgent call to action to confront this ubiquitous problem. Employing case studies and storytelling linked to recent business catastrophes he brings clarity to the problems proliferated by overload as well as to their enormous hidden costs. He includes a discussion of preemptive steps that may be taken at all levels in the organization to reduce and mitigate the toxic effects of information overload. This should be required reading in MBA programs, for knowledge workers, their managers and executives. I highly recommend this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what the etailers don't want you to know. April 27 2011
By James Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Obvious, intuitive, and right on - what the etailers don't want you to know. Not only is this a costly time waster, he shows it can be unhealthy as well.

Wasted time due to e-litter is another unintended consquence of the Information Superhighway. Just like drivers - maybe we should have to qualify for an elicense to show we know the rules of the road before we are allowed to use the service.Much of the time-wasting traffic is just bad manners, like bad drivers.

Not sure if the facts are valid, but even if i just close, the savings could be huge if only 10% accurate.

Add the cost of added IT support, data storage and transfer and it just gets worse.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So many words, so little to say Nov. 27 2013
By Harald Masst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The core concept of the book; that we are about to drown in more - and not least -less important emails, is true and important. The advices to cope with the problem are mostly on the sensible side. The shortcomings of the book is primarily due to Spira's reluctance to cinstrain the length and detail of his analysis, examples and advices on what to do. Would be a far better book with less than half the length.
5.0 out of 5 stars At last - commonsense research to explain information overload & why so many struggle with interruptions at work May 4 2013
By Robyn Pearce - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in solving the Lost Productivity Dilemma - an average knowledge worker loses 28% of their day - you MUST read this book.

Why do so many people come in early or stay late to get the real work done? Jonathan will explain why - and more than that - he'll give you practical solutions to manage the situation.

Robyn Pearce, author & international productivity specialist (known as the Time Queen!) [...]
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