The concept of information overload was first defined by Professor Bertram Gross in his book The Managing of Organizations from 1964:
"Information overload occurs when the amount of information to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have rather limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision-making quality will occur ..."
When we try to reach our targeted audiences with an ‘all at once’ approach, it’s really a sign of us loosing focus on what’s important here and now.
We simply do not do our job as the sender to make things easier for the recipient. Sometimes all of us probably think that everything is important. Everything must be included. But does it really have to? Some things are certainly more important than others, and some are most important. But how does information abundance manifest itself?
Let me first ask you a question:
How many things can you keep in mind when you go shopping for food before you have to write an action list?
Are you like me and stop there? You and I are not alone, on average there are 4-5 things we can keep in our immediate memory at the same time. It is very easy to get an abundance of information.
This raises an immediate question: what happens to all the information if we have an hour of training, or a 20-page policy document with lots of facts that we require our employees to follow?
Let’s say that we are presenting the goals for Agenda 2030, does our audience even have a chance to remember all 17 goals, and are they all equally important to our business? Some organizations work with up to 100 KPIs to manage their business. Is it even possible to have efficient processes with so much to consider for our co-workers?
The least we can do is to give our audiences a fair chance and stop serving them a smorgasbord with 20-30-40 different facts without prioritizing them. When doing this, we leave it to the audience to decide for themselves what they think is important to remember, and this usually happens unconsciously.
With this in mind, it can be good not to actually serve an entire smorgasbord at once but instead divide the serving information we want to communicate into small edible portions. And we can control by serving the most important things at the right time. That is what we should focus on.
So what can we learn from this? Yes, "less is more" - take one topic at a time.