Sunday, March 06, 2005

Information Overload

I read the 'Blink' by Malcom Gladwell on Saturday. I could not help but reading it without stop. It is a marvelous book with some very good insights. The examples and case histories which Gladwell quotes are marvelous.

One section deals with information overload and how it turns off the ability of our mind to take snap decisions. He provides an interesting illustration:

As a part of a exercise the military wanted to test the capabilities of the latest state of the art technological gadgets which gathered information about the enemy's movements communication, a whole database of opinions of military and political experts, algorithms which consumed all this information and predicted enemy's probable moves, and much more.

To test the usefulness of all this information a mock combat was organized with two teams: the red team and the blue team. The blue team had access to all the information, the red team which acted as the enemy had none.

Which team do you expect to win the mock combat? Blue right? But the red team won the combat! The blue team was overloaded with information and it affected the decision making greatly. The red team was not hampered by this. They concentrated on the battle when the blue team was trying make sense out of all the information and weigh the pros and cons of various options.

No doubt information was useful, but only before the battle began.

I think this has implications on the way we work as well. Too much information, too many options, too much analysis, clouds our ability to take decisions. What do you think? Comments invited.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger Balbir Singh said...

Wow! that was quick, you already finished reading the book. Shall I borrow it from you now?

At 10:07 PM, Blogger NGM said...

Yes you can :)

At 6:18 AM, Blogger Ravi Sharda said...

How fast and effectively you process the information is what makes the difference!

An example, We all are good at processing info ab't food. :) There may be many varieties of food available in a restaurant. Even then it doesn't take much time to come to a decision. :)

Good managers/enterpreneurs reach to the top because they have/nurture the ability to process information.

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