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12 Jul 2012

Too Much Information & Indecisiveness

Tony Hey in his article, “The Big Idea: The Next Scientific Revolution” (Harvard Business Review, November 2010 edition ), and Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman in theirs, “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple” (Harvard Business Review, May 2012 edition) talk about the challenges of too much information, too much choice. These become tougher when we are acquiring more information at an unprecedented rate. However, these trends also apply to everyday business activities.

For example, research is cited in Spenner’s and Freeman’s article concerning the following:

  • Too much information will tend to cause us to postpone or neglect decisions
  • People naturally tend to overthink and second-guess trivial decisions
  • The harder a decision is the more important we seem to believe it is
  • The more time we spend on a decision the more important it becomes in our minds

Now, if we combine these tendencies with the acceleration of information, we could easily have business leaders thrashing more and more with their decisions. In other words, if you believe your organization has problems making decisions now, it’s only going to get worse.

This creates an ironic paradox. While technological advancements allow us to produce and deliver products and services faster, they slow down our decision-making. This means we become even more wedded to our standard processes for longer periods, thus retarding adaptability. In short, we miss opportunities because we respond more slowly to new facts and circumstances; we can only handle decisions that fit within our standard parameters.

Therefore, the stockpile of unmade decisions will grow and clog our already overstressed decision-making processes. We will wrestle with more decisions longer than we ever did. We’ll have the information at our fingertips, but we’ll be indecisive about what to do with it.


For additional reading, consider “Your Brain on DDoS” by George Colombo (Twitter: @georgecolombo)


4 Responses

  1. If you’re exposed to extreme amounts of information you become less effective, inclined to make very poor decisions, and have a higher chance of suffering anxiety relevant illnesses.

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