“Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.” — Sherlock Holmes in “In Study of Scarlet”
Sometimes I forget that Sherlock is a fictional character because he seems so real. This excerpt brings me to today.
Did you relate to the above statement ? This has been on top of my mind for the past few days. I think it extends to all spheres of knowledge and in fact, life in general. But for purpose of this article, we will stick to information largely.
As per Marketing Profs, there are 2 million articles created everyday. This is expected to grow as the usage of internet grows and penetrates across more regions of the world. So how does this information uprising impact all of us ? For starters, it is definitely a good sign that the access and reach of information is no longer limited to few groups. We all acquire information in this easily available buffet. Some of us produce and many of us consume the information.
If we were to shift our focus from individuals to information generated by organisations. There is a constant production of content in terms of employee, marketing and customer engagement exercises. If one were to pick up the emails received by employees. As per an article in Livewire, The average amount of overall emails opened on desktop computers is 16%, on mobile devices is 55.6%, and on webmail is 28% (as of 2017). I have come across situations when people just delete emails without reading especially when it comes to informational emails related to workspaces or regular employee engagements.
The same expands to marketing and branding related information. How many of the companies branding and messaging did you retain as a user of a certain product or even as a bystander. At the start of the pandemic, we all were bombarded with the zoom call photos and then fatigue set on. I had to unfollow few companies because of the fact, that the intent of the branding got diluted when there was a constant barrage of only photos in my feed. However there are a few companies who stood apart with their approach and were able to create a lasting impression. Some of my favorites are Zappos, Unilever, Mars and Salesforce with just the right amount of relevant messages. They were active all throughout but it never felt that I was being bombarded with information. Everything was meaningful and relevant with an excellent curation.
Similarly, data is available in abundance in different industries. There is an estimated 2.5 quillton of data that is generated everyday. But is it so easy to use all the data that is available. As is the case with information, the abundance of data can cloud the objectivity around the use of the same. The overuse of data can sometimes hinder to see the story beyond what lies in a set of data. How does one identify the signal from the noise ?
As information and data loads increase, our capacity to retain knowledge takes a beating. I read an average of 4–5 articles per day but probably retain 10% of the consumption. And if there is something that I really want to retain, I have to take effort to retain the knowledge by making notes and sometimes listening or reading it a few times. This demands time and it is not possible always.
Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve covers this precisely. He hypothesized that the speed of forgetting. The forgetting curve hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it.
I took the liberty to represent the consumption conundrum in a schematic representation, please excuse atrocious drawing skill. There is no doubt that information explosion will continue to rise and we are perhaps reaching consumption fatigue. As is the case with all hype cycles, the ones who will survive and be able to catch the attention of the reader/consumer have to be the best of the lot. These are few of the key factors but there are ofcourse a host of other variables that impact this.
And as for someone like me, this is my ideal state to expand my knowledge in a meaningful and effective manner.
Summarising my thoughts, there is a lot that can get lost in translation in this chaos. I wonder what is the answer to this dilemma of wanting more and trying to find a balance. The art of moderation in life and reading can be a handy tool as we swim through the oceans of information.
What are your thoughts ? Do you have any approach or tools that you use? Would love to hear your comments and suggestions.
These are purely my own opinions as an avid consumer of content and am no expert on this topic :)
PS:The original post was created on Linkedin by me.