How do your employees keep on top of information overload?

research-practiceIt’s widely accepted that we’re living in a knowledge age, where there is an onus on organizations, and therefore all of us, to learn relentlessly.

Yet, that is often easier said than done in an age where calls upon our time are increasing.  It’s lead to a perferct storm of there being both too much to learn and not enough time to do so.

With the pace of change increasingly rapid, the learning treadmill can rapidly overwhelm even the most diligent and conscientious of us.

As someone that tries to stay on top of things in my own line of work, it really is a full time job, and that’s despite having relatively well honed skills in finding and filtering the right knowledge.

Solving the skills gap

It’s no surprise that a number of professions are complaining about a skills gap.  A recent report, led by Erik Brynjolfsson, highlighted the crucial role lifelong learning will play in maintaining our competitiveness in the job market.

Whilst it’s a compelling message, it’s often easier said than done.  In the race against the machines, the pace of technological change is outpacing our ability to learn enough to keep up.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that managers should consider three questions for its employees:

  1. How much learning is realistic for employees in a particular role?
  2. What are the priorities of learning?  Of course, this assumes that managers know what their employees need in terms of knowledge.
  3. How can learning be made more practical and efficient?

The research gap

The gap between research being released and that insight finding its way into mainstream practice is believed to be somewhere in the region of a decade.

In a fast moving environment that’s clearly way too long, and it helps to underpin the two speed economy highlighted by William Gibson’s quote that the future already exists but that it’s unevenly distributed.

Being able to curate, make sense of and spread that knowledge is therefore crucially important to the intellectual capacity of both your employees and your organization.

This is a fundamental part of the horizon scanning service that I offer, as my job is to curate the latest research and case studies in your field; make sense of them by connecting them with previous work and boiling them down to their very essence; and then helping you to spread that knowledge throughout the enterprise.

It seems inevitable that the fire hose of information is only going to get stronger and more powerful in the coming years, so the pressure to stay on top of best practice is only going to get more intense.

How are your employees equipped to cope with this?  How are you as an organization equipped to cope with this?

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7 thoughts on “How do your employees keep on top of information overload?

  1. It's a good point. I was reading a curated information source the other day, and all it did was link to various studies. Whilst the titles undoubtedly looked interesting, they didn't provide any information apart from that, so not only would I have to locate the articles (assuming I had access to them!), but I'd also have to go to the hassle of reading them. That put me off right there I'm afraid.

    • Yes, I think the whole point of curation is that it makes it easier to absorb. Not only are you highlighting interesting information, but you helping to make sense of it too.

  2. Enjoyed your post Adi – linked to recent discussions around the role of L&D functions. Two things for me stick out … what are we (L&D services) doing to curate content and enable access to the right information to enable people to have the knowledge to be job ready now, for potential changes and to meet career aspirations. Secondly what do we proactively do to develop people in the art of personal curation and “help yourself, there is no spoon” learning, this is need in its self.

    • Thanks Helena. It's an interesting one isn't it? I think there are various services and approaches to curate things from the mainstream media (both online and offline), but I'm not sure that's really where the value lies a lot of the time. I'd say, as an example, that probably 90% or more of the inspiration I find for posts here come from anything but the mainstream media.

      I would think, therefore, that there is a value in doing this kind of legwork, either in actively hunting interesting case studies, or finding and summarising interesting research. That would seem to be more valuable than linking to the latest BBC/Guardian/Mashable post.

      What do you think? Do you think this kind of skill exists in the L&D community?

  3. Absolutely, we each need to take personal responsibility for seeking out refreshing and contributing to sources that interest, challenge, stretch and educate us (not just endorse what we think). As to the skill existing within the L&D community, here we use our on line learning community to share exactly the sort of things you describe. The mainstream we expect people to easily access the hidden gems definitely need some digging for. Encouraging people to see sharing these gems and great sources is essential part of the playing field now. Great colleagues and especially leaders should be known for sharing knowledge and the sources of it not locking it away in the interests of gaining power … that game is definitely over! There are some great L&D people out there who are on this journey. Often the challenge is having IT strategies and infrastructure to support development and creating the right culture for the approach to flourish. I think we are all at different stages of this journey.

    • Yes, I think it's certainly increasingly common for knowledge hoarding to be a rare event, which is a very welcome development indeed, and, as you say, the journey itself is a fascinating and very rewarding one to be on.

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