From Chaos to Clarity: Business Strategies for Handling Information Overload
Imagine being in front of the most glorious buffet table that you have seen in your life. The table barely fits the room, and it’s impossible to grasp the ends of it by sight. But the table is not the most impressive thing; it is the myriad of food on it! There is everything from different types, sizes and shapes of pizza with small flowers on top to burgers of every kind of meat, including veggies and lab-produced patties. There are local delicates from every corner of the world: Swedish meatballs, Polish dumplings, Kenyan Ugali, Argentinian Asado or Vietnamese Banh Mi. This table gets you covered no matter sweet or sour, hot or cold, no matter what you want.
But here is the dilemma: where to start? You won’t be able to try everything alone, and learning about each dish takes forever. Maybe some guide or tool to help you browse? Or perhaps you need to stick to one type and forget about the rest? You can see that deciding what to choose and not feeling that we lost something is as overwhelming as the number of dishes.
Now, let’s change the table with dishes to business decisions; this is what companies today face in their decision-making: tons of data, multiple choices, high risk of failure and overall stress when every decision counts and your competitors are out there you cannot allow yourself to make mistakes. The data that should help us make conscious decisions often paralyse managers and stop innovations. How do we get here, and what do we do about it? Grab your plate, and let’s navigate these turbulent waters!
Understanding Information Overload
“95% of people are overwhelmed by data at work.”
So, remember the buffet from the beginning? If you had one plate, how would you choose what to pick? That's how information overload can feel - an overwhelming feast for the senses. Here is how this can impact your organisation.
Using our buffet analogy, decision paralysis is like being stuck at that table, unable to choose, afraid that you'll miss out on something unique. In the business, for example, customer success, this translates to teams grappling with too many customer data points, struggling to discern which ones genuinely matter. The result? Analysis paralysis.
Health and Stress Issues
Like overeating can lead to health issues, consuming excessive amounts of data can result in stress and burnout. The demand to process large quantities of information under strict time constraints can negatively impact individuals and teams, impacting their mental well-being and overall efficiency.
Dealing with too much information isn't just a personal issue. When companies are overwhelmed with data, it can impede their decision-making ability and hinder their progress in developing new ideas. It's like having too many people in the kitchen on a ship - it's sure to lead to a lack of progress.
The Data Odyssey: From Gutenberg to AI
"It's estimated that poor data quality costs the U.S. economy over $3 trillion per year."
If you think this problem is original to the XXI century, you couldn’t be far from true. In ancient times, people recognised that as a problem, which only escalated with one brilliant German inventor’s breakthrough. We need to trace our steps through history to understand how we ended up in this sea of data.
Even in the 3rd or 4th century BC, people recognised the perils of information overload. An early glimpse into this can be found in the book of Ecclesiastes (12:12), which solemnly declared, "of making books there is no end.". In a similar tone, Seneca the Elder commented that "the abundance of books is a distraction". It's as if they foresaw the impending flood of information.
Vincent of Beauvais' Concerns
In 1255, the Dominican scholar Vincent of Beauvais sounded the alarm about the deluge of information, noting "the multitude of books, the shortness of time, and the slipperiness of memory." His concerns mirrored those of today's knowledge workers trying to keep up with ever-expanding datasets.
The Gutenberg Press
In the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press marked the birth of mass communication. Books, newspapers, and knowledge became more accessible to the masses. This was the first wave of information explosion.
The Industrial Revolution
Fast forward to the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Industrial Revolution brought about mechanisation and automation. This increased the speed of data creation, with factories churning out data on production rates, supply chains, and more.
The Digital Revolution
The latter half of the 20th century saw the rise of computers, marking the beginning of the digital era. Businesses started collecting and storing data digitally, making accumulating vast amounts of information easier.
Big Data and AI
Then came the real game-changers: Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. Today, we generate data at an unprecedented rate. Consider this - in just one minute in 2021, the internet witnessed 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, 95,000 Stories shared on Instagram and nearly 70 Million messages sent via WhatsApp. And AI algorithms are sifting through this data to provide insights and predictions.
Stats Alert: In 2021 alone, 79 zettabytes of data were created, captured, copied, and consumed globally. If you imagine each data byte was a banana, 79 zettabytes would be equivalent to stacking bananas from Earth to the Moon and back 280,000 times! Enough to make a monkey's dream come true.
Navigating the Data Buffet
"There were 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilisation through 2003, but that much information is now created every two days, and the pace is increasing."
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google
At that point, you know why information overload is a problem and how we get here, so the last topic we should cover is how we can deal with it. We came up with some culinary-inspired tips to help you and your organisation thrive amidst the data deluge:
Prioritise Data: Choose Your Dishes Wisely
Just as a chef selects the finest ingredients for a signature dish, prioritise the data most relevant to your customer's journey. For instance, in e-commerce, focus on customer purchasing behaviour rather than unrelated metrics like website traffic.
Example: In a retail business, prioritise data on customer preferences and buying habits over less critical data points like social media likes.
Embrace Automation: Get Yourself a Data Sous-Chef
Automation tools act as your data sous-chefs, quickly processing vast data sets and presenting meaningful insights. For instance, AI algorithms can analyse customer interactions to identify patterns and predict future behaviour.
Example: Implement AI chatbots to automate customer inquiries, allowing your team to focus on more complex customer interactions. We wrote some articles about AI’s benefits, so check them out!
Human Touch: Don't Forget to Use Human Spice
Remember that behind every data point is a real person with unique needs and preferences. Utilise the human touch by engaging directly with customers for feedback and insights.
Example: Conduct surveys or interviews with customers to understand their experiences and gather qualitative data. Use metrics such as CSAT or NPS, but don’t focus only on quantitative data and make place for some qualitative, too!
Streamline Reporting: In Fine Dining, Plating Matters
Just as a beautifully presented dish enhances the dining experience, streamlined reports and dashboards offer a more digestible view of your data - Prioritise clarity and simplicity in data presentation.
Example: Use data visualisation tools to create clear, concise charts or graphs highlighting key performance indicators. Start simple with Excel and PowerPoint. Once you have a more robust dataset, consider upgrading to Alteryx and PowerBI.
Continuous Learning: Always Look for Inspiration to Refine Your Recipes
Just as a chef seeks inspiration to refine their culinary creations, stay updated on the latest data management tools and best practices. Attend industry conferences, read relevant literature, and engage in professional development.
Example: Explore new data analytics tools or enrol in data science courses to enhance your skills and stay competitive. Start with organising some learning sessions inside your team. Often, similar initiatives are already going on that you can learn from.
Mindfulness: Savor the Flavor
Encourage mindfulness at your data table by taking moments to reflect on the nuances of your data. This can lead to more informed decisions and a deeper understanding of customer behaviour.
Example: Regularly review and reflect on customer feedback and data trends to uncover valuable insights to drive business improvements.
“Data is like garbage. You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.”
- Mark Twain
As we reach the end of our data culinary journey, it's clear that managing the buffet of information in customer success is much like preparing a gourmet meal. Each data point is an ingredient, and your strategy is the recipe that transforms raw data into delectable insights.
As hard as it may be, if you use a touch of automatisation, a hint of prioritisation, two spoons of human contact and a splash of mindfulness, your team and company will be astonished by your data strategy. Now, conquer the data kitchen with all the flair and flavour of a master chef.
If you're interested in reading about why you should collect the data to drive your CS team's success, read the article below.